[House Hearing, 111 Congress]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office]
AFGHANISTAN POLICY AT THE CROSSROADS
COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN AFFAIRS
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
ONE HUNDRED ELEVENTH CONGRESS
OCTOBER 15, 2009
Serial No. 111-54
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COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN AFFAIRS
HOWARD L. BERMAN, California, Chairman
GARY L. ACKERMAN, New York ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN, Florida
ENI F.H. FALEOMAVAEGA, American CHRISTOPHER H. SMITH, New Jersey
Samoa DAN BURTON, Indiana
DONALD M. PAYNE, New Jersey ELTON GALLEGLY, California
BRAD SHERMAN, California DANA ROHRABACHER, California
ROBERT WEXLER, Florida DONALD A. MANZULLO, Illinois
ELIOT L. ENGEL, New York EDWARD R. ROYCE, California
BILL DELAHUNT, Massachusetts RON PAUL, Texas
GREGORY W. MEEKS, New York JEFF FLAKE, Arizona
DIANE E. WATSON, California MIKE PENCE, Indiana
RUSS CARNAHAN, Missouri JOE WILSON, South Carolina
ALBIO SIRES, New Jersey JOHN BOOZMAN, Arkansas
GERALD E. CONNOLLY, Virginia J. GRESHAM BARRETT, South Carolina
MICHAEL E. McMAHON, New York CONNIE MACK, Florida
JOHN S. TANNER, Tennessee JEFF FORTENBERRY, Nebraska
GENE GREEN, Texas MICHAEL T. McCAUL, Texas
LYNN WOOLSEY, California TED POE, Texas
SHEILA JACKSON LEE, Texas BOB INGLIS, South Carolina
BARBARA LEE, California GUS BILIRAKIS, Florida
SHELLEY BERKLEY, Nevada
JOSEPH CROWLEY, New York
MIKE ROSS, Arkansas
BRAD MILLER, North Carolina
DAVID SCOTT, Georgia
JIM COSTA, California
KEITH ELLISON, Minnesota
GABRIELLE GIFFORDS, Arizona
RON KLEIN, Florida
Richard J. Kessler, Staff Director
Yleem Poblete, Republican Staff Director
David S. Abramowitz, Chief Counsel deg.
Kristin Wells, Deputy Chief Counsel deg.
Alan Makovsky, Senior Professional Staff Member deg.
David Fite, Senior Professional Staff Member deg.
Pearl Alice Marsh, Senior Professional Staff Member deg.
David Killion, Senior Professional Staff Member deg.
James Ritchotte, Professional Staff Member deg.
Michael Beard, Professional Staff Member deg.
Amanda Sloat, Professional Staff Member deg.
Peter Quilter, Professional Staff Member deg.
Daniel Silverberg, Counsel deg.
Brent Woolfork, Junior Professional Staff Member deg.
Shanna Winters, Senior Policy Advisor and Counsel deg.
Jasmeet Ahuja, Professional Staff Member
Laura Rush, Professional Staff Member/Security Officer deg.
Genell Brown, Senior Staff Associate/Hearing Coordinator
C O N T E N T S
Mr. Steve Coll, President, New America Foundation................ 11
J. Alexander Thier, J.D., Director for Afghanistan and Pakistan,
United States Institute of Peace............................... 24
Frederick W. Kagan, Ph.D., Resident Scholar, American Enterprise
LETTERS, STATEMENTS, ETC., SUBMITTED FOR THE HEARING
Mr. Steve Coll: Prepared statement............................... 14
J. Alexander Thier, J.D.: Prepared statement..................... 27
Frederick W. Kagan, Ph.D.: Prepared statement.................... 42
Hearing notice................................................... 72
Hearing minutes.................................................. 73
The Honorable Howard L. Berman, a Representative in Congress from
the State of California, and Chairman, Committee on Foreign
Affairs: Prepared statement.................................... 75
The Honorable Gene Green, a Representative in Congress from the
State of Texas: Prepared statement............................. 77
The Honorable Dan Burton, a Representative in Congress from the
State of Indiana: Prepared statement........................... 78
The Honorable Gerald E. Connolly, a Representative in Congress
from the State of Virginia: Prepared statement................. 83
Written responses from J. Alexander Thier, J.D., to questions
submitted for the record by the Honorable Barbara Lee, a
Representative in Congress from the State of California........ 85
AFGHANISTAN POLICY AT THE CROSSROADS
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 15, 2009
House of Representatives,
Committee on Foreign Affairs,
The committee met, pursuant to notice, at 10:07 a.m., in
room 2172, Rayburn House Office Building, Hon. Howard L. Berman
(chairman of the committee) presiding.
Chairman Berman. The committee will come to order.
We welcome our witnesses, and I will give an opening
statement, the ranking member will be recognized for an opening
statement, as will the chair and the ranking member on the
Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia. Then members
who are here at the time that Ileana and I finish our opening
statements, who wish to make a statement, have 1 minute for
opening statements. Just let the staff know and we will include
all of those people and then we will go to our testimony.
I now yield myself time for an opening statement.
When the United States-led intervention in Afghanistan
began 8 years ago, there was near unanimity in Congress and
among the American people that this use of military force was
fully justified. Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda lieutenants,
the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks, were operating in
Afghanistan as the so-called ``guests'' of the ruling Taliban;
we and our international partners went in to shut them down.
Within months, the Taliban were driven from power, and most
members of al-Qaeda had been killed, captured or escaped across
the border into Pakistan.
In the weeks and months following the intervention, there
was considerable optimism that Afghanistan, after decades of
exhausting and destructive war, might be ready for a fresh
start. But over time, as our Nation's attention turned
elsewhere, it seemed that our strategy there became to simply
With a substantial drawdown of our troops in Iraq on the
horizon, and a worsening security situation in Afghanistan,
that conflict has once again become front and center. However,
in stark contrast to the days following 9/11, there is no
consensus today on how the U.S. should address the challenges
we face there. The purpose of this hearing is to help us
consider the potential consequences of the various options that
are now on the table.
In March of this year, the Obama administration unveiled a
new strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan. The strategy centers
on the need to disrupt and defeat al-Qaeda and prevent its
return to Afghanistan. It also recognizes that, to quote
President Obama, ``the future of Afghanistan is inextricably
linked to the future of its neighbor, Pakistan.'' The $7.5
billion assistance bill for Pakistan that Congress just passed
will help strengthen Pakistan's capability to combat terrorists
who threaten its security.
Now, while keeping one eye on Pakistan, we must settle on
the right approach for Afghanistan. That decision will be made
against the backdrop of increasing violence in Afghanistan.
American and coalition casualties are rising, Taliban tactics
are becoming more sophisticated, and extremists are controlling
an expanding swath of territory.
To make matters worse, the legitimacy of the current Afghan
central government has been called into question following
allegations of massive fraud in recent elections. This will
inevitably make our job harder--and the Taliban's job easier--
no matter what course we take.
Much of the debate right now centers on General Stanley
McChrystal's reported request for a ``surge'' of approximately
40,000 additional American troops.
In his August 30 assessment, which reflects the input of
one of our witnesses, Dr. Kagan, and other experts, General
McChrystal makes a persuasive case that we should implement a
``comprehensive counterinsurgency campaign,'' much like we did
in Iraq, in which protecting the Afghan population is the
Other key elements of the General's strategy include
greater partnering with the Afghan security forces to improve
their effectiveness, helping the Afghan Government become more
accountable at all levels, and improving the command structure
for coalition forces.
This proposed approach raises a number of important
questions. First, does Afghanistan, which has a more dispersed
and diverse population than Iraq, not to mention much more
rugged terrain, lend itself to this sort of counterinsurgency
campaign? Can such a strategy succeed without significant
elements of the insurgency coming over to our side, as they did
in Iraq? If not, what are the prospects for persuading the
Taliban rank and file to lay down their arms? Does it make
sense to place a significant number of additional troops in
harm's way in an effort to prevent al-Qaeda from coming back to
Afghanistan when the terrorist group already has a sanctuary in
neighboring Pakistan, and an increasing presence in Yemen and
Somalia? In the absence of a troop ``surge,'' is there an
alternative counterterrorism strategy involving some
combination of drone strikes and special forces that could be
employed to achieve the same goals?
Finally, what are the implications for Pakistan if we do
not support the McChrystal proposal? Would Afghanistan's
neighbor consider themselves better off?
To answer these and other important questions, we are
fortunate to have a very distinguished panel here with us
today, which I will introduce shortly. But before I do, let me
turn to the ranking member, the gentlelady from Florida, Ileana
Ros-Lehtinen, for any opening remarks she might have.
Ms. Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you so much, Mr. Chairman. And
certainly the issue being addressed in this hearing is an
We have an impressive group of witnesses to share their
expertise and recommendations on how to address the threats to
United States security posed by al-Qaeda and the Taliban in
Afghanistan. I had hoped, however, that administration
officials would have finally made themselves available to
testify on the implementation of our strategy in Afghanistan.
I would like to reiterate pending request for a full
committee hearing, as soon as possible, with senior
administration officials. Given the gravity of the situation in
Afghanistan, it would be our preference that the Department of
Defense and the Department of State make both General
McChrystal and Ambassador Eikenberry available to testify
before our committee, so that our chief diplomat in Afghanistan
and our commander in the field can provide a complete account
and description of the resources, programming and management of
United States assistance to activities in Afghanistan.
As the President stated in his March speech on Afghanistan
and Pakistan, the objectives of American policy in Afghanistan
are clear. We want to create an Afghanistan from which al-
Qaeda, the Taliban and their allies have been disrupted and
He then outlined a civilian military counterinsurgency
campaign to defeat al-Qaeda and Taliban in Afghanistan,
including the emergence of a democratic government in
Afghanistan that is able to secure itself from internal threats
like the Taliban or the return of al-Qaeda. And it should have
the support of the people, earned through the provision of a
reasonable level of government services and reduced corruption,
and be determined to never again provide a safe-haven for a
Such an effort requires effective planning, and this is
especially true of resources. To prevail against al-Qaeda and
the Taliban in Afghanistan, the administration must fully
implement the strategy without any further delays. It has been
76 days since General McChrystal submitted his review to the
administration requesting additional resources, and the clock
continues to tick.
Delay endangers American lives, and I say this not just as
a Member of Congress, but as a mother whose daughter-in-law
proudly served as a Marine officer in Afghanistan. Delay allows
the threat against our security interests to grow. As Bruce
Riddell, who coordinated the administration's first
Afghanistan-Pakistan policy review earlier this year, stated in
a recent interview with the Council on Foreign Relations, and I
quote, ``At some point there is a cost to delay,'' and that
cost comes in how our partners and how our enemies respond. Our
NATO partners are already a bit squeamish.
I am also concerned, Mr. Chairman, about efforts to
minimize the threat from the Taliban and the confusion over
whether the United States should pursue an exclusively
counterinsurgency or counterterrorism strategy. On the latter,
Mr. Riddell--again, the individual hand-picked by the President
to conduct its first interagency review of Afghan policy--also
dismisses as a fairy tale and a prescription for disaster the
notion that the Taliban could be separated from al-Qaeda or
that al-Qaeda could be eliminated simply by bombing its leaders
in Pakistan. Thus, a shift to a predominantly counterterrorism
campaign using air strikes and the like is clearly insufficient
to beat back the threat to America's interests that the Taliban
and al-Qaeda present.
We should not be short-sighted and consider U.S. strategy
in terms of either an exclusively counterinsurgency or
counterterrorism strategy. Often, counterinsurgency is not at
odds with but complementary to ongoing counterterrorism
In this respect, I would appreciate our witnesses'
consideration of the following questions: Has the mission in
Afghanistan been clearly articulated in terms of our strategic
objective, our supportive objective? How are these being
translated into programs?
How would you define the resource constraints that the
United States is encountering in Afghanistan, and what are your
recommendations for prioritizing both U.S. and international
And finally, the Afghan elections have become a serious
problem, but they are only a symptom of a far more serious
disease. What are your recommendations for assisting the
Afghans in improving both the quality of government and
countering the corruption that has become endemic?
What are your recommendations for addressing the lack of
unity of effort in NATO ISAF?
Additionally, what are your recommendations for matching
the resources a given country can bring to the task to its
political willingness to fight?
And finally, what are your recommendations for integrating
the strategy for Afghanistan into a broader strategy to deal
with the threat posed by global jihadist networks and provide
for regional security and stability?
United States personnel in the field in Afghanistan must be
given the resources they need to defeat our enemies. American
lives, not just policies, are at stake.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Chairman Berman. Thank you, Ms. Ros-Lehtinen.
And now I am pleased to recognize the chairman of the
Middle East and South Asia Subcommittee, the gentleman from New
York, Mr. Ackerman, for 3 minutes.
Mr. Ackerman. Thank you.
With apologies to Winston Churchill, I describe our
position in Afghanistan as a mess in the middle of a muddle,
mired in a morass. We can't walk away and we can't stay.
As has every Member of Congress who has been to
Afghanistan, I have heard for the past 8 years that we have
been making progress. So obviously now is the time for a new
beginning and a fresh start.
The Taliban and al-Qaeda and Pakistan terrorist groups all
acknowledge their cooperation and common alignment under the
same radical and violent vision of Islam. But here in
Washington, fine distinctions are offered as a basis for
Our nation-building efforts have succeeded in creating an
Afghan Government capable of stealing an election, but utterly
unable to provide actual government services. We have paid $18
billion to create Afghan security forces that can't operate
independently and whose annual costs approach that of
Afghanistan's GDP. We have helped create an Afghan national
police force that is best known among Afghans for the crimes it
And the failures on the U.S. side are even more egregious.
There is reconstruction spending that has rebuilt nothing
except a large ex-pat community in Kabul. There is pass-the-
contract skimming by Beltway bandits who each simply take their
cut, taxpayer money, before sub-, sub-, sub-, sub-,
subcontracting out the work. There are oversized U.S. contracts
so poorly designed that simply dropping cash out of a cargo
plane would actually have been more efficient.
There was a 7-year effort to get Afghan farmers to just say
``no'' to drugs and ``yes'' to starvation. Amazing, that didn't
work. This U.N. mission that doesn't actually appear to have
any mission at all, and the list of failures could go on and
Although none of this is the fault of the current
administration, all of it is now their problem to fix. And talk
about fixing Afghanistan is really talking about two questions:
How can it be fixed and are we capable of doing it?
So far there has been an enormous amount of attention and
ink and airtime devoted to the singular and, frankly, secondary
question of troop numbers. But it is far from clear, at least
to me, that our problems in Afghanistan are primarily military.
I have not heard any of the ``how'' on the political side, on
the governance side, on the reconstruction side, on the
economic side or on the international side.
I think I have seen this movie before. But I am waiting to
see how we are going to change the ending.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Chairman Berman. Thank you.
I have a list of five members who wish to make 1-minute
statements. If anyone wants to be added, speak now; otherwise,
we will cut it off. They are Sherman, Sires, Rohrabacher, Paul
Green, Lee, Klein. Okay.
The gentleman from California, Mr. Sherman, is recognized
for 1 minute.
Mr. Sherman. We have to determine whether we are going to
play defense or offense, whether we are going to try to meet
our minimum national security objectives or whether we are
seeking a democratic and prosperous Afghanistan. We should
focus on the latter only if we have a strategy likely to
succeed at a reasonable incremental cost.
First, we need to define our minimum national security
objectives which should be two: Denying al-Qaeda facilities and
safe-haven, which are not available to them elsewhere. But keep
in mind, 9/11 was plotted, in part, in an apartment building in
Hamburg. You are not going to be able to deprive al-Qaeda of a
conference room; you can deny them a huge military facility out
in the open, a training facility.
Second, we need to prevent the use of Afghan territory to
destabilize Pakistan. In order to meet our minimal national
security objectives, we may have to do less and do it longer.
And that will be culturally difficult for the United States,
but sometimes defending America means playing defense.
I yield back.
Chairman Berman. The time of the gentleman has expired.
The gentleman from--another gentleman from California, Mr.
Mr. Rohrabacher. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
We are looking at a proposal to send between 10,000 and
40,000 new combat troops, American combat troops, into
Afghanistan, and by definition, that means more Americans
involved in doing the fighting. That is a strategy that will
not work and will not change the situation in Afghanistan.
In Afghanistan there are plenty of people who are willing
to do their own fighting, and until we get to them and get them
on our side, we will lose in the end.
The Taliban was routed originally--when they were
originally routed after 9/11, there were only 200 American
troops on the ground. The Afghans are certainly willing to
fight; they know how to do it.
Sending more U.S. combat troops will actually be
counterproductive in many ways. What we need to do is make sure
that we reach out to the Afghan people at a village level and
spend a minuscule amount of the $31 billion that is being
suggested in reaching out and trying to help them, rather than
trying to send more U.S. troops to alienate them.
Chairman Berman. The time of the gentleman has expired.
The gentleman from New Jersey, Mr. Sires, is recognized for
Mr. Sires. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for holding today's
hearing on such an important and pressing issue.
The eighth anniversary of the war in Afghanistan has come
and gone. Thousands of our troops are still risking their lives
each day in this country, yet a comprehensive plan for the
future of this battle has not yet been written.
There are many complicated questions surrounding the debate
over Afghanistan. How should the United States cooperate with a
government after a fraudulent election? How can the United
States execute a multinational mission when some international
partners and U.S. citizens may be losing interest?
We must also work to better define how we will assess our
actions in Afghanistan. How do we measure success in the
country? How do we define failure? How will failure affect the
future of the region and our safety at home?
We must pursue a plan that supports the creation of a
secure and stable Afghanistan, a plan that looks beyond the
current political failings and works toward a strong,
democratic future. Only with a successful Afghanistan can our
enemies by truly defeated.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Chairman Berman. The time of the gentleman has expired.
The gentleman from Texas, Mr. Paul, is recognized.
Mr. Paul. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
In the last month, we have had a pretense of having a
debate about Afghanistan, but unfortunately, it is not much of
a debate. We are deciding whether or not to send 40,000 or
80,000 troops over to Afghanistan. We can't even decide where
the front lines are.
But the worst part of this is this is just deja vu again,
all about going to war needlessly. The same arguments we used
in going into war against Iraq; that is, weapons of mass
destruction and al-Qaeda, scare the people, it is in our
national defense--it is in our national security interest to go
there. And we continue.
The Taliban never did a thing to us. The Taliban--we were
paying them money up until May 2001. They--they are not
capable; even if they wanted to, they are not capable of
So we are over there pursuing a war, spreading the war,
going into Pakistan. The American people don't want it. We are
out of money. We can't afford medical education here, and we
are demanding that we send 80,000, 40,000 troops to Afghanistan
and expand the war.
It is time to end the whole mess.
Chairman Berman. The time of the gentleman has expired.
The gentleman from Texas, Mr. Green, is recognized.
Mr. Green. Mr. Chairman, I would like unanimous consent to
place my full statement into the record.
Chairman Berman. Without objection, it will be included.
Mr. Green. Like my colleagues, I hope the President will
make a decision soon to clarify our long-term goals. The
security situation in Afghanistan is deteriorating. We have
flawed election results. But unlike my colleague and neighbor
from Texas, maybe it wasn't the Taliban that came on 2001, but
they sure provided shelter for al-Qaeda. And we have created a
number of enemies of our country there now.
So I think we need to do both. We need look at our troop
levels, but we also need to build up the Afghan institutions so
they can fight and protect their own country.
And with that, Mr. Chairman, I appreciate the time.
Chairman Berman. Thank you. The time of the gentleman is
And the gentleman from Florida, Mr. Bilirakis, is
Mr. Bilirakis. Thank you, Mr. Chairman and Ranking Member
Ros-Lehtinen, thank you so much for calling this important
hearing. And thank you to the witnesses for appearing and
As more American soldiers are facing greater perils and
dying in higher numbers, I believe that the administration
should be providing much-needed information about where we are
and where we are going in Afghanistan. This uncertainty is very
disconcerting. Our policy should be articulated clearly.
In August, I traveled to Afghanistan and had the honor of
meeting with General McChrystal. He shared with me important
information about our progress in fighting the Taliban and al-
Qaeda, information that would benefit this committee and the
American people. He has also provided a clear, blunt report
that articulated an explicit course of action.
The White House should allow General McChrystal to testify
before Congress soon. His testimony is essential to help
Congress make informed decisions about our future in the
region. We need to hear from General McChrystal to determine
how we can achieve victory in Afghanistan and help our brave
men and women who are fighting to accomplish their mission.
Chairman Berman. The time of the gentleman has expired.
Mr. Bilirakis. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Chairman Berman. The gentlelady from California, Ms. Lee.
Ms. Lee. Thank you, Mr. Chairman--and I thank the ranking
member--for this hearing on Afghanistan, now facing its 9th
year of violent and destabilizing conflict.
And I must preface this by saying that I come to this
discussion from a different perspective than most of my
colleagues. I voted against the authorization to use force in
2001, which I knew was a blank check to wage war anywhere
around the world. Eight years later and reflecting on the rush
to war in Afghanistan and the Bush administration's war of
choice in Iraq, the cost to our national security and in
American blood and treasure are undeniable.
President Obama inherited the quagmire in Afghanistan, and
we must ask the hard questions about our mission there.
I believe that the President has rightfully committed
himself to answering the fundamental question, Are we pursuing
the right strategy? Is a military counterinsurgency strategy
feasible or sustainable in Afghanistan? Does an open-ended
United States military presence in Afghanistan best serve the
United States and our national security?
If we answer those questions and really consider our
resources, we hopefully will be able to pursue a different
Chairman Berman. The time of the gentlelady has expired.
The gentleman from Florida, Mr. Klein, is recognized for 1
Mr. Klein. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I think the American people want to know what is the
mission, what is the strategy. Everyone understands our
national security is the most important thing, that American
people on our soil are protected and our interests that are
allied with us around the world are most importantly protected.
The issue, of course, is, how do you do this? I think one
lesson learned from Iraq it is not just about one country's
borders. This is not about Afghanistan. This is about
Afghanistan and Pakistan and Somalia and Yemen and any other
territory where there is not a strong government or the
opportunity for terrorists to train and to threaten us.
So I do appreciate the fact that there is a policy of
decision of bringing together and challenging assumptions,
bringing together the political, the military, the intelligence
and coming forward with a recommendation. We are going to
discuss it, but I think the American people want to know what
this strategy is and how it can best accomplish a true, safer
country and national security.
Chairman Berman. The time of the gentleman has expired.
And the gentleman from Virginia, Mr. Connolly, is
recognized for 1 minute.
Mr. Connolly. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And I have a full
statement to enter into the record with your consent.
The question of U.S. objectives in Afghanistan is now a
major part of our national security debate. Is the war
winnable? How do we define winning? Should we be involved in
nation-building, and if so, to what end? Do we equate the
Taliban with al-Qaeda in our objectives? What are the
consequences of a United States retreat in Afghanistan for the
region and especially for Pakistan?
President Obama and the military leaders are now assessing
the best way to meet our primary goals in Afghanistan. The
identification of the imprecise potential menace that is the
insurgent is the ultimate challenge. In the end, the United
States must define clear goals, a clear timeline for
achievement and a clear set of resources necessary to achieve
its goals. Absent such clarity, I believe that Afghanistan
potentially becomes another quagmire of nightmarish
I thank the chair.
Chairman Berman. The time of the gentleman has expired.
The gentleman from South Carolina, Mr. Wilson, is
recognized for 1 minute.
Mr. Wilson. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And thank you for
having this important hearing.
Particularly, I am interested in the issues about
Afghanistan. My former National Guard unit, the 218th Brigade
of the South Carolina Army National Guard, led by General Bob
Livingston, served there for 1 year. I know firsthand, with the
1,600 troops from South Carolina, the largest deployment since
World War II--and our troops were all over the country--that
they saw the potential for the Afghan people in terms of the
Army and police. They identified the Afghanis as their brothers
and some very hopeful.
Additionally, I am very grateful. I am the co-chair of the
Afghan Caucus, so I have had the privilege of visiting the
country nine times. I have seen it emerge from rubble to the
potential that it has. But its beginning was as the third
poorest country on Earth.
So I am very hopeful that we either defeat the terrorists
there or we will see them again here.
Thank you very much for your being here today.
Chairman Berman. The time of the gentleman has expired.
The gentlelady from California, Ambassador Watson, is
Ms. Watson. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for the hearing.
To date, we know that President Obama has stated that
withdrawal from Afghanistan is not an option at this time. But
what do we hope to accomplish in Afghanistan?
One goal is the elimination of the Taliban forces and the
implementation of a working centralized government,
representative of the Afghan people, a government that will
effectively protect its people and defend itself. However,
concern about corruption within the Karzai administration, as
well as corruption of local leaders and various factions, seem
to be working against any form of stability in government.
We need put Afghan forces on the front, our trainers and
our people, who will provide resources, behind; and plan a
schedule for getting out of that country, and let them defend
their own borders while we defend the U.S.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I yield back.
Chairman Berman. The gentleman from New York, Mr. McMahon,
is recognized for 1 minute.
Mr. McMahon. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you for holding
this very important hearing.
As we know, since NATO took command of ISAF in 2003, the
alliance has gradually expanded the reach of its mission,
originally limited to Kabul, to cover Afghanistan's whole
territory. Obviously, evolving missions require evolving
strategies, and Mr. Chairman, I cannot see how we can commit
40,000 more American lives without that comprehensive strategy.
Although I cannot offer a concrete deliberation on the need
for more troops, I can say this. What is in question right now
in Afghanistan is not the number of troops, but what they will
be doing in Afghanistan. Currently, about 20-25 percent of the
Afghan police force resigns after recruitment; electoral fraud
has tarnished the image of both the U.S. and the Karzai
administration; and corruption and the drug trade have
revitalized the Taliban. And yet we still have great faith in
the Afghan people.
Therefore, it is imperative for us to come up with a
strategy that is both winnable and just for the Afghan people.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Chairman Berman. Thank you.
And I now would like to introduce our witnesses and hear
from them. But before I do that, both the ranking member and at
least one other member made reference to hearing from the
My current thinking is that we definitely must do that, but
that the appropriate time is after they have come out with a
strategy. And then the appropriate people--and I think it
includes General McChrystal--come before Congress, present
their positions and the administration's positions, subject to
questioning and challenges and all the things that are
associated with such a hearing. I am open to changing my mind,
but that is my current thinking.
Our first witness that I want to introduce is Steve Coll,
president and CEO of the New America Foundation and a staff
writer at the New Yorker magazine. For the past 20 years, Mr.
Coll was a foreign correspondent and a senior editor at the
Washington Post, serving as the paper's managing editor from
1998 to 2004.
Mr. Coll is the author of six books, including, ``On the
Grand Trunk Road: A Journey into South Asia'' in 1994 and the
well known ``Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA,
Afghanistan and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to
September 10, 2001,'' published in 2004.
Mr. Coll's professional awards include two Pulitzer Prizes,
the second of which was for his work on Afghanistan.
J. Alexander Thier is the director of Afghanistan and
Pakistan at the U.S. Institute of Peace, co-chair of the
Afghanistan and Pakistan working groups and co-author and
editor of the newly released, ``The Future of Afghanistan.''
Mr. Thier was a member of the Afghanistan Study Group, co-
chaired by General James Jones and Ambassador Tom Pickering,
and co-author of its final report. Prior to joining USIP, Mr.
Thier was the director of the Project on Failed States at
Stanford University's Center on Democracy, Development and the
Rule of Law.
From 2002 to 2004, Mr. Thier was a legal advisor to
Afghanistan's Constitutional and Judicial Reform Commissions in
Kabul. He also served as a U.N. and NGO official in Pakistan
and Afghanistan from 1993 to 1996.
Frederick W. Kagan is the resident scholar and director of
the Critical Threats Project at the American Enterprise
Institute. His most recent publications, based on multiple
trips to Afghanistan, focus on force requirements and analyses
of how various groups and stakeholders in Afghanistan and
Pakistan would respond to different United States policy
As I mentioned in my opening statement, Dr. Kagan is one of
the experts that contributed to General McChrystal's recent
assessment. He is also widely credited as one of the
intellectual architects of the Iraq surge as a result of the
January 2007 paper he co-authored with General Jack Keane,
entitled, ``Choosing Victory: A Plan for Success in Iraq.''
Previously, Dr. Kagan was an associate professor of
military history at the United States Military Academy at West
We are very pleased that you are here with us today.
And, Mr. Coll, why don't you start off?
STATEMENT OF MR. STEVE COLL, PRESIDENT, NEW AMERICA FOUNDATION
Mr. Coll. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, and thank you
for this opportunity to testify.
I had prepared a lengthy written statement which----
Chairman Berman. I should say that all of the statements
will be in the record in their entirety. We do want to hear
from you and have time to make your points. But your entire
testimony will be part of the record.
Mr. Coll. I appreciate that, and that statement covers some
of the questions that members asked during the excellent round
of opening statements about the potential of a counterterrorism
strategy as against counterinsurgency and this question of
sanctuary. So I would be happy to review those issues.
During my brief time, let me just review a couple of points
that arise from my own field research and historical research.
Let me start with a sense of what I think is at issue in the
I think, in my judgment, the United States has two
compelling interests at issue in the conflict. One is the
increasingly successful, but incomplete effort to reduce the
threat posed by al-Qaeda and related jihadi groups and to
finally eliminate the al-Qaeda leadership that carried out the
The second is the pursuit of a South and Central Asian
region that is at least stable enough to ensure that Pakistan
does not fail as a state or fall into the hands of Islamic
I think more than that may well be achievable. In my view,
I think most of the current commentary underestimates the
potential for transformational changes in South Asia over the
next decade or two, spurred by economic progress and
integration. But there is no question that the immediate policy
choices facing the United States in Afghanistan are very
difficult, and almost any path carries considerable risk and
What I would like to review in my few minutes are two
subjects, one, of the comparison that is often made between the
choices facing the United States today and the experience of
the Soviet Union during the 1980s; and secondly, the
relationship between United States policy choices in
Afghanistan and Pakistan's own evolution over the next few
I think the situation facing the United States is much more
favorable than that which faced the Soviet Union at any stage
of its Afghan misadventure. I want to briefly explain why.
In a global and diplomatic sense, the Soviet Union failed
strategically in Afghanistan from the moment it invaded the
country. It never enjoyed much military success during the 8
years of direct occupation. Neither Soviet forces nor their
client, Afghan Communist Government, ever controlled the Afghan
countryside. And yet despite these failures, the Soviet Union
and its successor client government led by President
Najibullah, never lost control of the Afghan capital, major
cities and provincial capitals or the formal Afghan state. It
was only after the Soviet Union formally dissolved in 1991, and
Najibullah lost the supply lines from Moscow that the
mujahideen Islamist guerillas finally prevailed and seized
The territorial achievements of the Najibullah government--
no forcible takeover of the Afghan state by Islamist guerillas,
continuous control of all the country's major cities and
towns--might actually look attractive to the United States
today as a minimum measure of success, and there is every
reason to believe that the international mission can do much
better than that.
Afghan public opinion today remains much more favorably
disposed toward international forces in cooperation with
international governments than it ever was toward the Soviet
Union. The presence of international forces in Afghanistan
today is recognized as legitimate and even righteous, whereas
the Soviets never enjoyed such recognition and were unable to
draw funds and support from international institutions in a
China today wants a stable Afghanistan. In the Soviet era,
it armed the rebels.
The Pakistani army today is divided and uncertain in its
relations with the Taliban and it is beginning to turn against
them, certainly against elements of them quite forcefully.
During the Soviet period, the Pakistan Army was united in its
efforts to support the rebels.
And even if the number of Taliban active fighters today is
on the high side of published estimates, those numbers are much
smaller than the number of Islamic guerillas that fought Soviet
and Afghan forces even in the late period.
The second issue I would like to briefly outline is the
impact of American policy in Afghanistan on the tolerance and
support of Islamist extremist groups, including the Taliban, by
the Pakistani army and security services. Pakistan's use of
Islamist militias as an asymmetric defense against India has
been an important factor in the Afghan war both before 9/11 and
after. However, the relationship between the Pakistani security
services and Islamist extremist groups is not static or
Pakistani public opinion, while it remains hostile to the
United States, has of late turned sharply and intensely against
violent Islamist militant groups operating within Pakistan. The
Pakistan Army, itself reeling as an institution from public
skepticism, is proving to be responsive to this change of
Moreover, the army civilian political leaders, landlords,
business leaders and Pakistani civil society have entered into
a period of competition and open discourse over how to think
about the country's national interests and how to extricate
themselves from the Frankenstein-like problem of Islamic
radicalism created by their historical security policies. There
is a growing recognition in this discourse among Pakistani
elites that the country must find a new national security
doctrine that does not fuel internal revolution and impede
economic and social progress.
The purpose of American policy should be to create
conditions within and around Pakistan for the progressive side
of this argument among Pakistani elites to prevail over time.
American policy over the next 5 or 10 years might also
recognize that the ultimate exit strategy for international
forces from South Asia is Pakistan's own success and political
normalization manifested in an army that shares power with
civilian leaders in a reasonably stable constitutional bargain
and in the increasing integration of Pakistan's economy with
regional economies, including India's.
Against this backdrop, a Taliban insurgency that
increasingly destabilizes both Afghanistan and the border
region with Pakistan would make such normalization very
difficult, if not outright impossible, for the foreseeable
future. Among other things, it would reinforce the sense of
siege and encirclement that has shaped Pakistan's support for
Islamist proxy militias in the past.
Conversely, a reasonably stable Afghan state, supported by
the international community, increasingly defended by its own
army and no longer under threat of coercive revolution by the
Taliban, could contribute conditions for Pakistan's Government
to negotiate and participate in political arrangements in
Afghanistan and Central Asia that would address Pakistan's
legitimate security needs in its own backyard by a means other
than the use of Islamist proxies.
America's record of policy failure in Afghanistan and
Pakistan during the last 30 years should humble all of us, I
think. It should bring humility to the ways we define our goals
and realism about the means required to achieve them. And I
think it should lead us to emphasize political approaches over
kinetic military ones, urban population security in Afghanistan
over provocative rural patrolling and Afghan and Pakistani
solutions over American blueprints.
But it should not lead us to defeatism or to acquiescence
in a violent or forcible Taliban takeover of either country. We
do have the means to prevent that, and it is in our interest to
[The prepared statement of Mr. Coll follows:]Steve
Chairman Berman. Thank you, Mr. Coll.
STATEMENT OF J. ALEXANDER THIER, J.D., DIRECTOR FOR AFGHANISTAN
AND PAKISTAN, UNITED STATES INSTITUTE OF PEACE
Mr. Thier. Mr. Chairman, Ranking Member and members of the
committee, I am Alex Thier, the director for Afghanistan and
Pakistan at the U.S. Institute of Peace. Thank you for the
opportunity to present my personal views about the way forward
for the United States in Afghanistan.
My understanding of the potential and pitfalls of our
policy choices in Afghanistan is based on intensive personal
experience there over the last 16 years. Through 4 years on the
ground during the Afghan civil war in the 1990s, I witnessed
the impact of war, warlordism, Talibanism and abandonment by
the West. But I also came to know another Afghanistan, replete
with moderate, hardworking men and women who want nothing more
than a modicum of stability.
Afghanistan is not some ungovernable tribal society doomed
to permanent conflict. Even during the war, thousands of
community leaders worked to resolve conflicts and improve
living standards for their people.
We face four fundamental questions in Afghanistan:
Do we have national security interests in Afghanistan?
If so, do we have an effective strategy to secure and
protect those interests?
Do we have the tools, resources and partnerships in place
to implement that strategy?
And, finally, is it worth the effort and investment?
Ultimately, I believe that we do have a deeply compelling
national security interest in Afghanistan and that our best
strategy, albeit the best of a bad series of options, is to
recommit ourselves to the stabilization of Afghanistan. As
difficult as it will be to follow the promises we have made to
the Afghans over the last 8 years, the alternatives are far
more dangerous, dispiriting and unpredictable.
Despite setbacks, I believe that we know what success looks
like in Afghanistan: When the path offered by the Afghan
Government, in partnership with the international community, is
more attractive, more credible and more legitimate than the
path offered by the insurgents.
Do we have national security interests in Afghanistan? In
my opinion, the answer to this first question is the clearest.
We face a stark array of consequences from Afghan instability,
including an emboldened al-Qaeda, the restoration of Taliban
rule to some or all of Afghanistan and the return of civil war
there, the fall of more Pakistani territory to extremists, the
potential proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. The
United States and NATO would also suffer a credibility crisis
if the Taliban and al-Qaeda can claim a military victory in
So do we have an effective strategy to secure and protect
those interests? I believe that the March 2009 strategy, which
is aimed at stabilization and not just counterterrorism, is
sound in theory. Stabilization requires simultaneously
addressing security, governance and the rule of law and
But 4 years of deterioration in both Afghanistan and
Pakistan has created a crisis of confidence among Afghans,
Americans and other troop-contributing nations. Thus, I believe
the question becomes whether we have the tools, resources and
partnerships in place to implement that strategy. In other
words, if we want to, can we stabilize Afghanistan?
This is the most difficult question to answer. In 2001, the
answer seemed to be ``yes,'' if we had made the necessary
commitments. But serious resources, including troops, aid,
capacity-building efforts and political attention were lacking.
At the same time, the Afghan Government has not fulfilled
its promise. No government that is unable to provide security
and which is seen as corrupt and unjust will be legitimate in
the eyes of the population. It is this illegitimacy that has
driven Afghans away from the government and emboldened the
To overcome these challenges, we must do four things with
our Afghan partners. First, we must radically prioritize what
we want to accomplish. For too long we have been doing too many
things poorly instead of a few things well. In this critical
year, it is essential to simultaneously scale back our
objectives and intensify our resources.
Second, we must address the culture of impunity and improve
governance there. Without a credible and legitimate Afghan
partner, we cannot succeed no matter the scale of our
investment. The United States must act aggressively, with its
Afghan partners in the lead, to break the cycle of impunity and
corruption that is providing a hospitable environment to the
Third, we must decentralize our efforts to reach the Afghan
people. A top-down Kabul-centric strategy to address governance
and economic development is mismatched for Afghanistan, one of
the most highly decentralized societies in the world. We must
engage the capacity of broader Afghan society, making them the
engine of progress, rather than the unwilling subjects of rapid
And finally, we must improve international coordination and
aid effectiveness. The U.S. must use its aid to leverage
positive change and must coordinate closely those efforts with
our international allies.
Finally, all things considered, is the continuation or even
expansion of the American engagement in Afghanistan worth the
investment? I believe that the answer is ``yes.'' The Afghan
people and those who have lived and worked among the Afghans
have not given up hope for a peaceful Afghanistan. They are not
helpless without us, but they do rely on us for the promise of
a better future, a promise that we have made repeatedly over
the last 8 years.
I understand that remaining committed to the stabilization
of Afghanistan is not easy. It will be costly in lives and
taxpayer dollars. It is a challenging mission in every way, yet
the alternatives, when examined honestly, are unbearably bleak.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Thier
follows:]Alexander Thier deg.
Chairman Berman. Thank you.
And Dr. Kagan.
STATEMENT OF FREDERICK W. KAGAN, PH.D., RESIDENT SCHOLAR,
AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE
Mr. Kagan. Thank you, Mr. Chairman and Ranking Member,
members of the committee. Thank you for holding this hearing.
I want to just start by----
Chairman Berman. Pull the microphone just a little closer.
Mr. Kagan. Sorry. How is that?
I want to start by noting the one good thing about this
debate is that it has not been a partisan debate in this town.
And I think that stands in more contrast to the nature of the
debate that we had over the Iraq war, which was unfortunately
toxic because of its partisan nature.
Here, I think that we have an effort collectively really
among people who disagree to come to some general understanding
of the problem, and I think that it is a very healthy
development in our discussion of strategy.
I agree with a great deal of what--actually, almost all of
what my colleagues said. And what I would like to do is, first
of all--Mr. Chairman was kind enough to mention my
participation in the initial assessment group--to say that
although I was honored to serve as a member of that group, I am
not speaking for General McChrystal, I am not channeling
General McChrystal, I am not leaking on behalf of General
McChrystal, I haven't spoken to General McChrystal about this.
These are my own thoughts.
Having said that----
Chairman Berman. In other words, this is General
Mr. Kagan. Right. Oh, well, I see that disclaimer didn't
Having said all of that, what I am actually going to do is
read a bunch of things from the actual assessment that was
leaked by the Washington Post and a couple of other recent
studies and pieces, because I think that we have really--it is
a dense document, the assessment is. It is a very complicated.
Afghanistan will give you a headache if you think about it for
30 seconds. And a lot of press reports have highlighted or
asserted things about the assessment that I don't think
accurately reflect what General McChrystal is trying to do,
even apart from the fact that what is publicly available is a
redacted draft. So forgive me while I read a few sections from
it to highlight some of the key aspects of this strategy.
First of all, under ``Objectives,'' if you ask, What does
General McChrystal think that his objectives are? he lays them
out very clearly. President Obama's strategy to disrupt,
dismantle and eventually defeat al-Qaeda and prevent their
return to Afghanistan has laid out a clear path of what we must
do. That is the objective that General McChrystal is trying to
achieve, and I don't see in this document a mission statement
or objective other than that, except for the ISAF mission
statement. Because General McChrystal is a NATO commander, and
NATO has given ISAF a mandate and the mission is,
``ISAF, in support of the Government of Afghanistan,
conducts operations in Afghanistan to reduce the
capability and will of the insurgency, support the
growth and capacity and capability of the Afghan
national security forces and facilitate improvements in
governance and socioeconomic development in order to
provide a secure environment for sustainable security
that is observable to the population.''
General McChrystal adds,
``Accomplishing this mission requires defeating the
insurgency, which this paper describes as a condition
where the insurgency no longer threatens the viability
of the State. The Government of Afghanistan must
sufficiently control its territory to support regional
stability and prevent its use for international
Those are the objectives at which this strategy aims, at
least according to this assessment document and what General
McChrystal has said. And I think that accusations or assertions
that this somehow really is an attempt to build Valhalla in
South Asia and has gotten that he has gone off the reservation
and moved away from the President's mandate are unfounded.
I think it is important to understand the degree to which
General McChrystal himself highlights the need to get Afghan
forces into this fight and turn this fight over to Afghan
forces as quickly as possible. He says,
``The objective is the will of the people. The Afghans
must ultimately defeat the insurgency. We cannot
succeed without significantly improved unity of effort,
and protecting the people means shielding them from all
the threats. Ideally, the AMSF must lead this fight,
but they will not have enough capability in the near
term, given the insurgency's growth rate. In the
interim, coalition forces must provide a bridge
capability to protect critical segments of the
population. The status quo will lead to failure if we
wait for the AMSF to grow.''
I believe this is an assessment that was based on a large
amount of staff work that was done within the Intelligence
Community, within Kabul, with CSTC-A, which runs--the training
command that oversees the Afghan forces and with our commanders
on the ground. I believe that it is a correct assessment.
I think that General McChrystal is making it clear, and he
has made it clear repeatedly, that he does not desire or intend
to have American forces waging this war indefinitely into the
future; and he does support the notion of transitioning
responsibility for the conflict to the Afghan security forces
as rapidly as it is possible. But his assessment is, it is not
now possible to do that in the circumstances as they exist.
Speaking to the question of al-Qaeda's involvement, which I
think is important because it comes up periodically, the
assessment addresses the issue and says,
``Al-Qaeda and associated movements based in Pakistan
channel foreign fighters, suicide bombers and technical
assistance into Afghanistan and offer ideological
motivation, training and financial support. Al-Qaeda's
links with the Haqqani network, which is an element of
the Taliban, have grown, suggesting that expanded
Haqqani control could create a favorable environment
for al-Qaeda and associated movements to reestablish
safe havens in Afghanistan.''
There are people who have made arguments that a return of
the Taliban government would not, in fact, lead to a return to
al-Qaeda. But I have to say, looking at the evidence, there is
a real danger in cherry-picking intelligence in order to
support an assertion like that, because I believe that the mass
of the evidence suggests otherwise, even if people can isolate
individual instances that would seem to say so.
It is also important to recognize that the assessment was
developed on the assumption that the elections would be
fraudulent, at least to some considerable degree. And in the
assessment it notes, ``The recent presidential and provincial
council elections were far from perfect and the credibility of
the election results remains an open question.''
I think it no longer is an open question. This clearly was
a fraudulent process that has harmed the legitimacy of the
government. But that was an element that I believe was factored
into the assessment that General McChrystal has produced, by
which I mean it is not a new development which would justify or
require necessarily rethinking the entire approach or starting
The points about prioritization of effort that my
colleagues have made and many other people have made are very
well taken. ISAF strategy previously and the strategy of the
international aid community had really been very much spreading
forces and resources more or less at random around the country,
vaguely trying to tie them to population centers but without
clearly articulating why any particular area was more important
than any other particular area.
The strategy that General McChrystal is working on is
designed specifically to address that precise problem, that
until you have identified which areas really matter and what
you need to do about them, you can't come up with any
meaningful assessment of resources that is anything other than
So, to read a couple of sections from the report:
``ISAF's operations will focus first on gaining the
initiative and reversing the momentum of the
insurgency. ISAF will prioritize available resources to
those critical areas where the population is most
threatened. ISAF cannot be strong everywhere. ISAF must
focus its full range of civilian and military resources
where they will have the greatest effect on the people.
This will generally be in those specific geographic
areas that represent key terrain. ISAF will initially
focus on critical high population areas that are
contested or controlled by insurgents, not because the
enemy is present, but because it is here that the
population is threatened by the insurgency.
``Based on current assessments, ISAF prioritizes
efforts in Afghanistan into three categories to guide
the allocation of resources.''
What follows is a section that has been redacted, quite
appropriately, because we don't need to tell the enemy exactly
how we are going to be prioritizing our efforts. But this was
the beginning of a clear statement of the prioritization of
effort within the country to focus on the areas that matter
rather than attempting to deal with every problem everywhere.
General McChrystal also noted in his assessment something
else that is very important, which is that we are not going to
solve this entire problem all at once. And we have to recognize
that it will develop over phases. He says:
``We face both a short- and a long-term fight. The
long-term fight will require patience and commitment,
but I believe the short-term fight will be decisive.
Failure to gain the initiative and reverse insurgent
momentum in the near term, next 12 months, while Afghan
security capacity matures, risks an outcome where
defeating the insurgency is no longer possible.''
I agree with that assessment. I do believe that we are at
this moment losing the war in Afghanistan. I believe that if we
do not send sufficient forces to reverse the insurgency's
momentum, the war will be lost long before there is any
prospect of bringing Afghan forces or local security forces to
bear on the problem.
General McChrystal also noted: Our campaign in Afghanistan
has been historically under resourced and remains so today.
Success will require a discrete jump to gain the initiative,
demonstrate progress in the short term, and secure long-term
And here he is referring also to the psychological effect,
I believe, of the commitment of a significant, potentially
decisive amount of U.S. force rather than what looks like a
grudging parceling out and incremental approach of U.S. forces
that will allow the enemy to believe that successful enemy
operations can deter the U.S. from sending the next force
packet. I believe that was important in Iraq, and it is
And I want to highlight this culture of poverty. All of a
sudden we have gone from a situation where everyone who has
been to Afghanistan has seen how desperately poor that theater
is in terms of resources, how hard it is to move around, how
you have--I certainly noticed this--how you have majors and
lieutenant colonels working on your travel arrangements instead
of specialists and sergeants, because there aren't enough
specialists and sergeants to go around. The way that that
organization is run, it is church rat poor, and it has been for
a long time. And I think that we really need to keep that in
mind as we think about the prospect of nickel and diming that
command over troop requests. Because this isn't Iraq, this
isn't a highly developed theater with lots of capabilities and
lots of things, lots of people lying around not doing anything.
Everyone in Afghanistan is working five jobs. It would be nice
if we could get them down to working four jobs.
I would like to just point out quickly that the British
Prime Minister, of course, has now laid out his strategy, and
he has already committed to the counterinsurgency approach and
made very clear that Britain's objective is to defeat the
insurgency by isolating and eliminating the leadership.
I think we need to think about the alliance consequences of
choosing another strategy. Those of you who have read Dexter
Filkins' recent article in the New York Times magazine, you
will find some very useful insight into McChrystal's thinking
also about the role of counterterrorism. He says killing
insurgents in Iraq worked there only because it was part of a
much larger effort to not only defeat the insurgency but also
to build an Iraqi state that could stand on its own. He noted
if we are good here, it will have an effect on Pakistan; but if
we fail here, Pakistan will not be able to solve their
problems, which I also believe is true.
And there were three quotes that Dexter Filkins reported
from locals, that echoed with me very much from conversations
that I had had with many Iraqis when we were discussing the
surge, or when we were implementing the surge early on in 2007.
One of the Afghans said, ``You guys, you come to help and then
you leave. The Afghan people are not 100 percent sure that you
are going to stay. They are not sure they won't have their
throats cut if they tell the Americans where a bomb is.''
Separately, an old man with a long beard stepped forward.
``We are afraid you are going to leave this place after a few
months,'' the old man said, ``and the Taliban will take their
Lastly, ``Everyone in Garmsir sees that you are living in
tents, and they know that you are going to be leaving soon. You
need to build something permanent, a building, because your job
here is going to take years. Only then will people be persuaded
that you are going to stay.''
We heard many similar comments in Iraq. If you want to get
local people to fight for you, you have to persuade them that
you will be there for them.
Which leads me to my last point, which is a look, a brief
look at the Kerry-Lugar bill, which is now so much in debate in
Pakistan, from a different perspective. I think that the
language that is in that bill requiring Pakistan to comply and
requiring our agencies to report on Pakistani compliance, which
is really what the language is with our desires, is perfectly
reasonable and appropriate. And I think we have got ourselves
caught in the middle of a Pakistani political firestorm that
has little to do with the specific language in the bill.
But I would like to focus on something else in that bill.
The following sentences are in that piece of legislation:
``The U.S. intends to work with Pakistan to
strengthen Pakistan's counterinsurgency and
counterterrorism strategy to help prevent any territory
of Pakistan from being used as a base or conduit for
terrorist attacks in Pakistan or elsewhere.
``Under the `security assistance' title, the purpose
of assistance under this title is to work in close
cooperation with the Government of Pakistan to
coordinate action against extremist and terrorist
targets. Pakistan has made progress on matters such as
preventing al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and associated
terrorist groups such as Lashkar-e-taiba and Jaish-e-
Mohammed from operating in territory of Pakistan,
including carrying out cross-border attacks into
I am sorry, we have to certify that it has done that.
``The President shall develop a comprehensive
interagency regional security strategy to eliminate
terrorist threats and close safe havens in Pakistan,
including by working with the Government of Pakistan
and other relevant governments and organizations in the
region and elsewhere to best implement effective
counterinsurgency and counterterrorism efforts in and
near the border areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan,
including the FATA, the NWFP, parts of Baluchistan, and
parts of Punjab.''
``Agencies are obliged to provide an evaluation of
efforts undertaken by the Government of Pakistan to
disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al-Qaeda, the Taliban,
and other extremist and terrorist groups in the FATA
and settled areas, eliminate the safe havens of such
forces in Pakistan, prevent attacks into neighboring
I would ask: How can we insist that the Pakistanis conduct
operations like that while we say that we are not going to do
the same things on the Afghan side of the border which is under
our security responsibility and directly impacts their ability
to do those things?
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Kagan
follows:]Frederick Kagan deg.
Chairman Berman. Thank you. Thank all of you. And I yield
myself 5 minutes. And that 5 minutes, I must remind myself as
well as my colleagues, includes my question and the witness'
I would like to turn part of my rhetorical questions into
real questions. Can we achieve these objectives without
significant elements of the insurgency coming over to our side?
And if we can't, is that a realistic prospect to persuading
elements of the Taliban to lay down their arms?
And while Dr. Kagan has spoken to it, I would like to hear
the other two witnesses address the alternative view that there
is a counterterrorism strategy involving some combination of
drone strikes and special forces that could be employed to
achieve the goals of the mission that was outlined last March.
Mr. Thier. I think that the first question, the question of
political reconciliation in Afghanistan and the opportunity to
attempt to bring some of the insurgents over, is a critical and
often overlooked component of how we need to approach the
situation in Afghanistan. The U.N. and others put out these
maps where they show the increasing insecurity creeping across
the country, the sort of red tide of Taliban influence. What is
most significant about that map is that 4 years ago, 3 years
ago, many of those areas that are today dangerous were not.
They were solidly pro-government, or at least were not causing
And when we think about this question of reconciliation, we
have to think about what it is over the last 4 or 5 years that
has caused some people who were either pro-government or at
least neutral to go over to the other side.
And I believe that a lot of the foundation of that is not
about the strength of the Taliban or the attractiveness of the
Taliban message, but the failure to present a government that
appeals to the interests of those people; or, at worst, the
presentation of a government that actively discourages those
people through corruption.
And so I think that there is a lot that can be done maybe
not to get Mullah Omar and Hamid Karzai on the deck of an
aircraft carrier, but to get a lot of the mid-level insurgent
commanders, people who have more recently begun the fight
against the government, to come over to the other side. And I
think that there are multiple-level inducements that can
If you look at the history of factional negotiation in
Afghanistan, one of the things that people always point out is
that Afghan factions routinely change sides. It happened
constantly during the civil war. This is because ultimately
people are looking for who they think the winner is going to
be, and looking out for their self interest. And so I think
that there is a lot that can be explored there.
The only caveat that I would add is that this does really
have to be Afghan-led and supported by the international
forces. But it has to be Afghan-led. And in order to do that,
the Afghan Government needs to have a much more----
Chairman Berman. It wasn't in Iraq.
Mr. Thier. It wasn't in Iraq.
Chairman Berman. Afghan-led.
Mr. Thier. Or Iraqi-led. Right.
Chairman Berman. I mean Iraqi-led.
Mr. Thier. I believe in this case that the reason that it
needs to be Afghanistan-led is that I don't think that there is
an Anbar Awakening-like situation waiting to happen in
Afghanistan. I think that these are micro-political disputes in
different provinces that require intensive knowledge of what is
going on in that area; of what tribe and what subtribe is
aggrieved, and why; who is the governor? And I think that that
is, frankly, something that the Afghans are much more capable
of handling. We have to support that. But I think that it has
to be Afghan-led.
Just to turn briefly to the question of the drones, I don't
believe that without resources on the ground we are able to
support a policy. The way that those policies function
successfully is when you have people on the ground, local
people who provide you intelligence and who support that
policy. I think the idea that somehow we are going to get the
insurgents when they pop their heads out of the cave or get al-
Qaeda when they pop their heads out of the cave is misguided.
You may be able to get a few people. You are also likely to
kill civilians through that model.
I ultimately believe that if we are going to see stability
in Afghanistan, we have to be there on the ground supporting
the Afghan people and developing their capacities.
Chairman Berman. In the last 3 seconds that are left, do
you have a different view? And if you do, I will come back on
the second round. I withdraw the question because my time has
expired, and we have--the bells have gone off. We have three
votes on the floor. I will recognize the ranking member, then
we will recess and come back.
Ms. Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you so much, Mr. Chairman. There
have been reports that the administration is considering a
counterterrorism strategy that would tolerate the Taliban
returning to power in Afghanistan. The Washington Post noted
that White House officials are suggesting that the United
States treat the Taliban as Hezbollah in Lebanon. We have seen
how well that has worked out.
If such an approach is adopted, do you believe that the
Taliban would actually deny al-Qaeda sanctuary in Afghanistan?
Do you not agree that acceptance of the Taliban further
endangers U.S. interests and allies in the region?
Also, according to one of the theories reportedly being
considered by the administration, only al-Qaeda poses a
strategic threat to U.S. national interests but we must defeat
an element of the Taliban to defeat al-Qaeda. How can we
logically separate the two in terms of policy but not of
And finally, Dr. Kagan, could you elaborate on the role
that Iran is playing in Afghanistan, particularly the Iran
Revolutionary Guard Corps? And how is our approach to Iran's
nuclear program affecting Iran's activities in Afghanistan?
Thank you, gentlemen.
Mr. Coll. On the question of the Taliban's return to power
and whether or not it is plausible to imagine that they would
not accommodate al-Qaeda, my own judgment is it is not
plausible to assess that they would keep al-Qaeda out. The
Taliban, of course, are a diverse organization with diverse
leadership groups, and so all Taliban assessments are not the
same. But of the main leadership groupings, the Quetta Shura,
led by Mullah Omar and his advisers and colleagues, has a long
record of collaboration with al-Qaeda. They certainly have
diverse views about whether that collaboration has been good
for them or not. And there is a debate within them that might
create opportunities to separate one group of leaders from
another. But there is no record that their judgment has been
that they should break with al-Qaeda.
Ms. Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you, Mr. Coll. Mr. Thier? Just take
any one of those.
Mr. Thier. I will just respond briefly. Having watched the
Taliban take over Afghanistan for the first time in the 1990s
and watching how they grew together with al-Qaeda, they are
genetically mixed with al-Qaeda as well as ideologically mixed
with al-Qaeda. There have been intermarriages. It is very
difficult for me to believe that suddenly the Taliban are going
to become an anti-al-Qaeda force and prevent al-Qaeda from
coming in. I don't think there is any evidence to support that.
And we can't be certain that they will. But anybody who
suggests otherwise I think is making it up.
Ms. Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you, sir. And Dr. Kagan, if you
could address that and also the Iran issue.
Mr. Kagan. Yes. I agree absolutely, not only is there no
reason to think that the Taliban would resist al-Qaeda, there
is no evidence I think that they would, nor is there any
evidence at all that they could keep al-Qaeda----
Ms. Ros-Lehtinen. So tolerating the Taliban in any form
back in Afghanistan is not a good thing.
Mr. Kagan. It would be almost certain to provide al-Qaeda
with renewed safe havens that we would not be able to access.
The Hezbollah analogy is particularly bizarre, because
Hezbollah is a part of the Lebanese Government, Hezbollah has
accepted the political process in Lebanon. It is also a global
international terrorist group that absolutely does pose a
threat to American interests. And it is very strange when
people say that it doesn't. But it is, actually when you think
about it then in that way, in no way like the Taliban. So I
don't understand the basis for that comparison.
Iran is playing a very complicated game in Afghanistan, as
it does everywhere. It is backing all sides. It has been paying
Karzai heavily. It paid Abdullah heavily. It would pay
everyone. But it has been--and we have this from much open
source reporting--it has been training Taliban fighters in
camps in Iran. It has been facilitating the movement of
weapons, some high-end weapons but not very many, and suicide
bombers, into Afghanistan. It is my belief that the Iranians
aim to develop a series of Taliban groups along their frontier
that are loyal to Tehran in large part as a way of defending
themselves against the coming collapse that they see, and,
frankly, that I think they desire. Because the one thing that
the Iranians make clear on a regular basis is that they want us
out of Afghanistan as quickly as possible.
Ms. Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you. And lacking administration
officials, we have to look at news reports that say some inside
the White House have cited Hezbollah, the armed Lebanese
political movement, as an example of what the Taliban could
become. And they see Hezbollah as not a threat to the United
States. So that is certainly frightening. Thank you.
Chairman Berman. The time of the gentlelady has expired.
The hearing will recess for probably 20 minutes.
Chairman Berman. The committee will come to order. I
recognize the gentleman from Massachusetts, Mr. Delahunt, for 5
Mr. Delahunt. I thank you, Mr. Chairman. I just have some
very simple questions. The strategy, as outlined in news
accounts and from the public source or open source information
that you have, what would the cost be? You know, we have been
talking about whether the strategy makes sense. Can the three
of you give just a rough estimate what the cost to the American
taxpayers would be?
Mr. Coll, could we start with you? Take a wild guess.
Mr. Coll. You know, I am afraid, sir, I have no basis to
make an accurate estimate of that sort.
Mr. Delahunt. Okay. Mr. Thier?
Mr. Thier. Obviously, it is probably useful to break down
the civilian and military cost components. I believe that the
military--and Fred may know better than I would--is probably
roughly on the order of magnitude of about $60 billion a year,
with increased forces.
Mr. Delahunt. So add in the component of the civilian side,
Mr. Thier. On the civilian side, I can say that the most
significant part of our civilian side spending is on spending
to build the Afghan National Army and the Afghan National
Police. The administration's 2010 request for that spending is
$7.5 billion. In addition to that, there is probably roughly
another $1.5-2 billion for other civilian-side efforts.
So my guess would be that it is probably about 50-10, maybe
$50 billion on the military side and $10 billion on the
civilian side, based upon figures I have seen.
The Congressional Research Service actually puts out some
excellent figures on aid totals to Afghanistan, going all the
way back to the 1980s, that are very instructive.
Mr. Delahunt. Thank you. Dr. Kagan?
Mr. Kagan. Congressman, I am not an expert on defense
budgeting, so I won't hazard a guess on the record. I am sorry.
Mr. Delahunt. Okay. I think clearly we are hearing from our
constituents in terms of the costs of the wars, plural. We are
obviously in the midst of a debate regarding health care
reform. I have a memory that one of the advisers to President
Bush made an estimate, I think it was Mr. Lindsey, of some $50
billion, and that obviously was inaccurate as it turned out to
be. So I was interested to hear your opinions.
You know, we talk about, what does success look like? And
Dr. Kagan, you indicated that you thought Iran had an interest
in our failure, if you will. First of all, am I correct when I
say that initially Iran was supportive in our efforts against
the Taliban, and historically they have had issues with the
Mr. Kagan. Yes. Traditionally, Iran has been skeptical of
elements of the Taliban, although Iran also supported----
Mr. Delahunt. Thank you. And just one final quick question.
What would losing look like?
And I start with Dr. Coll. And by this I mean would it be
to the advantage of the neighbors--Russia, Iran, Pakistan, all
of the neighbors in the area--if all of a sudden there was an
American withdrawal? Would they be pleased with that? Would
they be happy with that, Dr. Coll?
Mr. Coll. Only Iran would find it in its interests to see
the United States fail entirely in Afghanistan and leave the
region. I think the other countries you listed would prefer a
stable Afghanistan. Although some of them are ambivalent about
that being associated with American strategic success, they
nonetheless don't want chaos.
Mr. Delahunt. And yet this is despite the history between
the Iranian Government and the Taliban. They would be pleased
with a Taliban----
Mr. Coll. My own view is there is no unitary decision-maker
in Iran. So there are aspects of the Iranian establishment, the
civilian Foreign Ministry and so forth that have a view that
the benefits of stability in the neighborhood outweigh the
costs of American success. But I think most of the weight of
Iranian decision-making has more recently concluded that in
this period of encirclement and confrontation with the United
States, they need--the benefits of American failure outweigh
the costs of instability.
Mr. Delahunt. Thank you.
Chairman Berman. The time of the gentleman has expired. The
gentleman from California, Mr. Rohrabacher is recognized for 5
Mr. Rohrabacher. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. The
cost estimate for sending a significant number of new United
States combat troops into Afghanistan is between $30 billion
and $40 billion. Now, after 9/11, when we only had 200 troops
on the ground at the time that the Taliban were routed--but
they did arrive with suitcases full of money as well as working
to try to support those people in the Northern Alliance who
just naturally would have been against the Taliban--why is it
not a better strategy for us to buy the good will of the tribal
and ethnic leaders of Afghanistan, which we could easily do
with a minuscule amount of that $30-40 billion, provide
villages with a local clinic, give local leaders enough money
to help their local people? Why is that not a better strategy
than spending $30-40 billion and sending in more combat troops
so that the United States combat troops will do the fighting
rather than the village militias and the tribal and ethnic
leaders who have traditionally fought and won the battles in
Mr. Kagan. Congressman, the reason why I believe that the
strategy that you are advocating would fail is because when you
look at the conditions on the ground within Afghan society,
within the villages that you are talking about, and the balance
of power on the ground in a lot of these localities, this isn't
2001. The situation right now is that you have--you have now
had 4, 5 or 6 years in some places of consistent Taliban effort
to establish its control and influence over the local
Mr. Rohrabacher. Let me stop you there because I have
limited time. No, they have had 5 or 6 years of incompetence
and corruption from a national centralized government that we
have forced upon Afghanistan. But if we would reach out to
those villages--and I have been in Afghanistan at that level--
if we would reach out to those tribal and ethnic leaders, those
village leaders, rather than trying to force them to succumb to
the orders of a corrupt government which they have not even
voted for--the system that is set up in Afghanistan, they don't
even vote for their local Congressmen there. They don't have
local representatives. We have foisted this on them. And of
course they don't like what we have to offer, and they are
listening to the Taliban.
No, the Taliban haven't come in and coerced them. We
disarmed them, we disarmed the Northern Alliance, and then we
tried to force a local government and local governance type of
society into a mold where a Federal system, where a national
army and national controls were going to take precedent over
local powers and local decision-making. We have lost because of
that. Now, just sending 30-40,000 more troops in, American
combat troops, isn't going to change their frame of mind.
Mr. Kagan. Congressman, may I address that based on General
Mr. Rohrabacher. Yes.
Mr. Kagan. There is a large component of the assessment
and, I believe, of the strategy that aims to do more or less
precisely what you are advocating in the sense of going below
the level of the central government, recognizing that
provincial governors and district subgovernors are not
representative of their people, working overtime to address
that; because I do think we need to press the Afghan Government
to make those leaders elective positions and address this, but
in the meantime to use military--U.S. forces, military and
civilian, to establish relations with local tribal elders,
local leaders, understand their concerns, shield them when
necessary from the predatory government, and in other
circumstances shield them from the Taliban is a core pillar, I
Mr. Rohrabacher. Let me just note they can do the fighting.
The Afghan people are the most courageous people and brave
people I have ever met. They are capable of fighting. We
disarmed the Northern Alliance after the Taliban were kicked
out in order to establish this central system. We are paying
the price for that right now. We need to rearm local leaders.
And we need to buy their good will by rebuilding their country,
which we promised to do and never did after the Russians, nor
after they helped us defeat the Taliban.
I am giving a special order on this tonight for an hour if
anybody would like to take a look at it. You are all invited.
Chairman Berman. This portion of the gentleman's time is
expired. The gentleman from California, Mr. Sherman, is
recognized for 5 minutes.
Mr. Sherman. Thank you. I wonder whether we have failed in
Afghanistan. We have prevented Afghan territory from being used
for another major attack against the United States, and we have
disrupted al-Qaeda there. What we failed to do is to achieve
those objectives at a cost that the American people are willing
to sustain over a long period of time. And as Mr. Rohrabacher
points out, we achieved considerable success in Afghanistan;
not the kind of total success that brought peace and security
to every village, with, as he describes it, 400 men on the
The question here is: Why Afghanistan? History, that is
where al-Qaeda happened to be. History, we have spent 10 years
there. Therefore, it is the most important place because that
is where we have been. But putting aside history, why is
Afghanistan more strategically important, more necessary in the
war against international terror than Somalia, aside from its
proximity to Pakistan? I will ask Mr. Coll.
Mr. Coll. I think all al-Qaeda sanctuaries are not created
equal. The history of the relationship between al-Qaeda's
leaders and principal international operators and the Pashtun
Islamist militias along the Pakistan-Afghan border goes back 20
years; it is intimate; and indeed Haqqani, who is now one of
the main Taliban faction leaders, provided the territory and
the security where al-Qaeda organized its first training camps
in 1988. So I would welcome the migration of al-Qaeda's leaders
from that border area to Somalia or Yemen. I don't think that
they would remain fugitives for very long in those places. So I
do think that there is something very distinctive about this
political military territory.
Mr. Sherman. But that is true of both sides of the
Mr. Coll. It is.
Mr. Sherman. Not drawing a distinction between Afghan
Pashtuns and those in Pakistan.
Let me move on to the next question. Is it true that our
local commanders are prohibited from cutting deals with local
warlords, et cetera, and must at every political stage go
through the Kabul government? Mr. Coll?
Mr. Coll. I don't know the answer to that.
Mr. Sherman. Okay. Why do we pay less money to Afghan
soldiers than the Taliban pays to their soldiers? And what
would be the effect if we doubled pay, which would be by far
the cheapest thing we could possibly do of all the things we
are considering doing in Afghanistan? Mr. Kagan?
Mr. Kagan. Well, we could certainly increase the pay. We
can recruit as large an Afghan Army as you want right now. The
constraint on that has been the unwillingness, first, of the
Bush administration, and then of this administration, to commit
to larger end strength goals for that army. The problem is not
that we can't find the troops for it.
Mr. Sherman. I am not even saying the army has to be
larger. Right now we recruit them, we train them, they outbid
Mr. Kagan. But we are only going to be dealing with the
134,000 people that we are talking about, whatever their
Mr. Sherman. Yes. But I mean we recruit them, we train
them, Taliban gets their services, we go recruit somebody else.
It is like we are the farm system.
Mr. Kagan. With respect, sir, that is not the way it works
with the Afghan National Army. The Afghan Police are corrupt
and infiltrated, but the Afghan National Army has been fighting
with very little infiltration very effectively against the
Mr. Sherman. And very little desertion?
Mr. Kagan. Desertion rates are--I don't want to quote
numbers off the top of my head. I would characterize them as
reasonable in this kind of conflict.
Mr. Sherman. Can we achieve the nondestabilization of
Pakistan and prevent Afghanistan from being a launching pad for
attacks against the United States without achieving peace and
security and prosperity throughout all of Afghanistan's
provinces? I will ask for a very quick answer from all three
Mr. Thier. I think the answer to that is I am not sure
about all of Afghanistan's provinces, but fundamentally if the
political balance in Afghanistan remains with the Taliban, then
I think that it will be impossible for us to prevent the
destabilization either of Afghanistan or, indeed, of Pakistan.
Mr. Sherman. I didn't even ask it. Obviously, if the
Taliban--it looks like my time has expired.
Chairman Berman. Yes, it has. The gentleman's time has
expired. And the gentleman from Texas, Mr. Paul, is recognized.
Mr. Paul. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. It seems like we have
had now a war going on for 8 years, into the 9th year, and from
the discussion it looks like we are searching for a
justification for it. What is the reason we are there? I think
we got the cart before the horse. We have been fighting all
this time, and it means that it isn't a management problem, it
is a policy problem of how we got there, why we are there, and
what we are doing. And besides, this type of debate about
management, I can't imagine this type of debate going on in
World War II. You know, we knew who enemy was, we declared war,
the President said he is the Commander in Chief, told the
Congress what he needed.
Now that isn't an argument for the Congress not paying
attention, it is an argument against the way we go to war. And
it looks like we have accepted this notion that perpetual war
leads to perpetual peace. And we satisfy the military
industrial complex and the special interests and all these
motivations just to stay in war, endlessly.
But even these 8 years, I don't see where the success is.
Men die, thousands of Afghans are displaced and die. It costs
$0.25 trillion and we are still finding out what are we there
for? Oh, if the Taliban takes over, who we used to get along
with quite well, if they take over, all of a sudden al-Qaeda is
going to be there and there is going to be another 9/11. This
is making the assumption that 9/11 couldn't have occurred
without these training camps in Afghanistan. Do you think those
19 guys went over there and did push-ups in those camps? There
is no way. There is no way they were there doing those things.
The report when they studied 9/11 they said, well, there
was a lot of planning going on in Germany, a lot of planning
going on in Spain. And there were--15 of them were Afghans. I
mean if somebody really wanted to, I will bet they could have
talked the American people into bombing Saudi Arabia. I mean,
15 were Saudis. I imagine under those circumstances the
American people and the Congress could have been talked into
bombing Saudi Arabia under those conditions.
So I just don't see how we can continue to do this and come
up with any sensible policy, because we never challenge, we
never question whether preemptive war is a good strategy. And
this is what this is all about, preemptive war. Starting wars,
saying it is preventative.
But this is a completely un-American approach to fighting
wars, because under the original system, the people got behind
the war, declared the war, knew who the enemy was, and we
didn't come up with these strategies. Do we need 40,000 or
80,000 people? And who should we give the money to? Should we
give it to this group?
Why don't we ever ask the question--and this will be the
question that I will leave with you--why don't we as a Congress
and the administration, the former administration as well as
this one, why don't we ask the question, what is the motivation
for somebody to attack us? And I don't think it is ever really
asked, because I think there is a different answer than the
assumption, oh, they hate us. They hate us for our freedoms and
our wealth and this. And I don't believe that for a minute.
I think the people in Afghanistan, the large majority, no
matter what the reports are from the administration, our puppet
administration, most people want us out of there. They don't
want us in Pakistan. The people in Pakistan don't want us
there. People in Iraq don't want us there. It is occupation.
So my question is: Why is that never talked about or why is
it dismissed so easily, if indeed you study and you find out
that people who are willing to sacrifice their life to make a
point--it is because we are seen as foreign occupiers, just as
the Soviets were seen as foreign occupiers, just as we joined
those individuals who wanted to throw out the foreign occupiers
in the past.
And yet now we are. We learned nothing from history, both
ancient history or even recent history. Why don't we pay more
attention to the true motivations behind somebody who wants to
commit suicide terrorism against us? Anybody care to answer?
Chairman Berman. In 20 seconds.
Mr. Kagan. Congressman, in 20 seconds I can only tell you
that some of us do pay a great deal of attention to what the
ideology is that drives al-Qaeda and affiliated groups to try
to attack us. It has been articulated in tremendous detail in
multiple books. It goes beyond not liking us because of our
wealth and a variety of other things, and it has to do with the
struggle within Islam that they see us participating in,
whether we are present there or not. It is a very, very
sophisticated strategy. It is a very, very sophisticated
ideology. And it is extremely clear on what their intentions
are, and why.
Chairman Berman. The time of the gentleman has expired. The
gentlelady from California, Ms. Lee, is recognized for 5
Ms. Lee. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. I see that I am
not alone with my concern for an increase in troop level for
Afghanistan. Mr. Rohrabacher, Mr. Paul and others are really, I
think, laying out some of the same concerns that I have. So I
am glad this is beginning to become bipartisanship.
Let me ask you--because I am clear that some believe that
without a real credible and legitimate Afghan partner we really
can't succeed. And we have also heard that we must turn things
around within the next 12 months or face failure. So let me
just ask you if that is realistic. Can we turn things around in
terms of a level of reform within the Afghan Government within
the short term? And is that enough to provide the Afghanistan
people with a legitimate alternative to the Taliban?
And then secondly, I would like to ask--and any of the
panelists can respond--about the poppy fields and the farmers.
And in fact, is there enough focus on ensuring an alternative
agricultural product and economic development strategy for
Mr. Thier. Let me take the first question, because I think
it is very poignant. It was famously said about Vietnam that it
was not a 10-year war but ten 1-year wars. And I think that
when you look at the application of strategies to reform the
Afghan Government and to create greater degrees of capacity and
legitimacy, to think about those challenges in 1-year terms is
quite dangerous, because this is very difficult and intensive
I have been working with the Afghan Government for the last
8 years on trying to reform the justice system and develop a
new system of rule of law and the constitutional process. I
think that the good news is that among the Afghans, there is a
constituency for reform. There are a lot of people who very
avidly want to improve their own capacity and to improve the
capacity of the government and of society to deal with the
challenges that they face.
But at the same time, even in the best of times in
Afghanistan, which is one of the poorest countries in the
world, that government administration was always weak and
fairly underdeveloped. And I think that the response to your
question is that we can do significant things in 1 year to
improve the situation. We can't expect dramatic results in 1
Eight years ago I was part of a group that met with State
Department officials, United Nations officials, NATO officials,
to talk about how to move forward in Afghanistan. And one of
the recommendations that we had was to invest in a civil
service academy, to invest in the training of Afghans so that
3, 4 years down the line, they would be able to take over the
sorts of things that we were looking at the United Nations to
do. Unfortunately, that academy still doesn't exist.
Now, we can lament the failures of the last 8 years, and it
is important to recognize them, but we stand here today
thinking about how to create a better future for Afghanistan,
and it is still possible to invest in these things.
Ms. Lee. So does an increase of, say, 20, 30, 40,000
troops, do you see at the end of a year the progress had been
made so that we can begin to exit out of Afghanistan?
Mr. Thier. I believe that apart from the troops, we need to
focus much more intensively on this effort to create government
accountability and capacity, particularly at the subnational
level. And so my concern and the work that I have done is much
more focused on how we do that and how we use the capacity that
exists in Afghanistan toward our common ends. And so that is
how I would answer it.
Ms. Lee. Dr. Kagan.
Mr. Kagan. I would like to echo those concerns and say you
have put your finger on a very important number of questions.
And I think that something has to be stated very clearly here.
The administration--you have a declassified version of General
McChrystal's strategy basically. I am not aware that there is a
declassified version or even a classified version of Ambassador
Holbrooke's strategy or Ambassador Eikenberry's strategy or the
Secretary of State's political strategy for dealing with this
situation. And that is a gap. And we need to know what the
administration's political strategy in this crisis is going to
Of course it is not in General McChrystal's plan, because
it is not his remit to develop a political strategy. I believe
that you can develop a political strategy. I believe this
administration could do so. And I believe that doing so could
be transformative, although probably not in a year.
But I think that as we challenge, as we get involved in
this debate, the question of 40,000 or 80,000 troops and so
forth is not really the question that we should be focusing on.
General McChrystal has done his homework. This is what is
required to do what he needs to do. What we need to see is the
homework for the rest of the effort, which is the political
strategy to go along with this.
Ms. Lee. Thank you. If I get a second round, I would like
to get a response to the poppies.
Chairman Berman. Okay. Thank you. The time of the
gentlelady has expired. The gentleman from Florida, Mr.
Mr. Bilirakis. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Dr. Kagan, as a
result of having been on the ground with General McChrystal in
Afghanistan for the last several weeks, I know you have got
particularly good insight as to the focus of the report.
Because there has been much said about nation building,
often with negative connotation, I am wondering if you could
share with us the difference between nation building and the
counterinsurgency plan that has been articulated by General
McChrystal in his report.
Mr. Kagan. Absolutely. And you raise a key point there. The
objective of General McChrystal's strategy is not to build up
the nation of Afghanistan. The objective of General
McChrystal's strategy is to defeat insurgent organizations
linked with al-Qaeda in order to achieve the President's
objectives and maintain regional stability. In order to conduct
an effective counterinsurgency campaign, you have to address
the problems of illegitimacy of the government that fuel
insurgency. And it is important to note in the discussion in
this town people have gotten a little confused. The legitimacy
of the government is not an input into a counterinsurgency
campaign. It is the output of a counterinsurgency campaign. If
the government were seen as legitimate, you wouldn't have an
So what an insurgency campaign has to do is to build a
certain degree of legitimacy. Because if you want to ask the
question, Could we prevent al-Qaeda and the Taliban from
returning to Afghanistan without establishing any kind of
stable or driven Afghan Government, the answer is sure. How
many American troops do you want to keep there for how long?
If you actually want us to be able to leave Afghanistan at
some point and leave it in a condition where it will not once
again become a safe haven for terrorists and destabilize
Pakistan, then you have to be looking at establishing some kind
of government that has basic legitimacy. And that is the
objective, that is what I think the objective should be of our
strategy. And I think if you read the assessment, it is pretty
clear that that is where General McChrystal is headed as well.
Mr. Bilirakis. Thank you. I have one more question. General
McChrystal's report warned about India becoming too involved in
Afghanistan, presumably because such involvement antagonizes
Pakistan. And from the testimony we also know that Pakistani
intelligence services still consider some Taliban groups to be
an asset and that the ISI provides support to the Taliban.
At the same time, India would like to get more involved in
the effort to stabilize Afghanistan. Like us, India sees the
Taliban as an extremist threat that will undermine Afghanistan
and the region. So what is the United States doing and what
should we do about India's efforts to play a role in the Afghan
Mr. Coll. I think that question points to the centrality of
what Fred was saying earlier about the need for a really
ambitious and creative and hardworking political strategy that
encompasses these regional competitions as they play out in the
I think the specific answer is that there is a role for
India in Afghanistan and supporting its stability. The problem
is as much optics as substance. But it requires conditions in
which the legitimate concerns of the Pakistani Government and
Army about the presence of Indian forces in Afghanistan can be
dealt with in a political context, in a diplomatic, negotiated
context in which we pay attention to their concerns, but insist
that they be resolved through peaceful negotiations, not
through the support of proxy militias. And that is achievable.
I think that was the reason why the administration brought the
Presidents and the delegations from Pakistan and Afghanistan
together in Washington earlier this year, tried to start a
process that they hoped would build confidence and address this
very question. But that has to be sustained. It has to be
worked every day. It is very complicated. It is not easy. But
it is where the heart of some of the structure of instability
is located in this conflict.
Mr. Thier. If I can add to that, I think that it is
important to have a historical perspective about Afghanistan.
Afghanistan has not always been at war. And when it is at
peace, it is because the regional competition that Steve
alluded to becomes regional cooperation. And what we need to
foster much more for Afghanistan is an environment of regional
One of the reasons that Pakistan originally supported the
creation of the Taliban was because they wanted to open the
land route through Afghanistan to be able to trade with Central
Asia, the Middle East and Europe, a route that had been closed
for decades due to the presence of the Soviet Union.
Similarly, the Iranians and the Pakistanis, as well as the
Indians, have a tremendous amount to gain from potential
regional economic cooperation.
And so I think that if we think about the problem of
regional competition in Afghanistan in a way that we can help
to foster the ways that that becomes regional cooperation--and
certainly the Indians play a key role in that--then everybody
An example of that is the pipeline deal between
Turkmenistan and Afghanistan, Pakistan, and now India. It may
not go forward, but it establishes the basis for potential
regional cooperation which puts everybody in support of Afghan
stability instead of putting everybody in support of proxies
that cause Afghan instability.
Chairman Berman. The time of the gentleman has expired. The
gentleman from Virginia, Mr. Connolly, is recognized for 5
Mr. Connolly. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And I am going to
ask a series of questions and beg for concise answers. What,
Mr. Coll--we will start with you--bottom line, what is and/or
should be the United States objective in Afghanistan?
Mr. Coll. An Afghan Government that is stable enough to
prevent coercive revolution by the Taliban and that is aligned
with the American project of dismantling al-Qaeda.
Mr. Connolly. Mr. Thier?
Mr. Thier. I like Steve's answer.
Mr. Connolly. Dr. Kagan.
Mr. Kagan. Works for me.
Mr. Connolly. All right. Well, that sounds like a
reasonable goal. But you are talking about a country that in
terms of even a sense of national identity, literacy, the writ
of a central government being able to go into remote parts of a
very challenging geography--historically, you cited a previous
era in which such a government arguably existed, but that is a
long time ago, and an awful lot of history has intervened. It
sounds to me like nonetheless--I was there in February--that
sounds like a tall order. Is that an achievable objective
within some kind of realistic time frame?
Mr. Coll. I believe it is. I believe that absent the
momentum that the Taliban have gained in the last 18 months, as
one of your colleagues pointed out earlier, that minimum
condition has already been achieved by the international
community in Afghanistan. It is a question of sustaining it and
developing it in a way that doesn't require a large investment
of international combat troops.
That is the question. Is that achievable in a reasonable
time, a transition to an Afghan state and an Afghan security
forces that can carry this forward? I believe it is. I believe
there are risks in all directions. But the risks of not
attempting it, not making those investments, are greater than
the risks of undertaking it.
Mr. Thier. I believe that the Afghan state has to reflect
Afghan society. There is no question that Afghanistan is
capable of stability. And the way that they have achieved that
in the past is through a condominium of having a weak but
coherent central government that takes on certain tasks,
attempts to establish a monopoly over violence, and does the
big sorts of projects that can't be done at the local level,
such as building major roads and those sorts of things.
At the same time, you have Afghan society that even through
the years of war continued to orchestrate and generate its own
capacity to do small-scale work, to improve irrigation, to
build schools and things like that.
And so simultaneously focusing on those bottom-up
capacities and creating an Afghan Government that can do the
big parts, I think is a formula for stability in Afghanistan.
Mr. Connolly. Dr. Kagan?
Mr. Kagan. In the interests of being concise, I will agree
with both of my predecessors.
Mr. Connolly. Okay. Let me then start with you on this
follow-up question. Again, that all sounds good, but we now--
let me give you a devil's advocate point of view. We now have a
government that is delegitimized because of fraudulent
elections. We have former U.S. Ambassadors and now former U.N.
officials so claiming, whether right, wrong, or indifferent,
the damage is done in the eyes of the international community
and arguably for a lot of Afghans. You know, a stable Afghan
Government, we don't have it right now, and we have got a
central government that all too often in Afghanistan itself is
seen as not much more than a plutocracy, you know. And when
they show up, it is to shake you down, not to protect you.
And so it seems to me that given the current reality, the
United States does not have a partner, a viable partner that
would meet the conditions you all have laid out.
Mr. Kagan. Running quickly through the points. I would say
first of all, this Afghan Government was losing legitimacy long
before the elections because it wasn't providing services to
people and was seen as a plutocracy. The elections are data
point in legitimacy for this government, but they were not
dispositive to its legitimacy before and they won't be
dispositive going forward. Afghan people will look to see what
this government is doing. Is it now doing what it needs to do?
Absolutely not. And we have to address that. There is reason to
believe historically that we can do this because we did it in a
parallel situation in Iraq where the problem was not so much
plutocracy, although Lord knows there was that too.
The problem was you had officials in the Iraqi Government
actively running death squads that were fueling the sectarian
civil war. We were able to address that problem. And you don't
have that going on anymore, which has allowed Iraq to move
forward. I believe that a modification of that approach can
succeed in Afghanistan if it is properly resourced both on the
military side and on the civilian side.
Mr. Coll. One point very quickly. This election--the
allegations of fraud are very serious. But things are not as
bad as American discourse sometimes reflect. Consider the
opposition leader. He has not thrown a rock through a single
window, there is nobody in the streets, there is still a very
pragmatic attitude in Kabul. They want an opportunity to
negotiate their own way forward and their own reform package.
And I think that is conceivable.
Mr. Connolly. I thank the chair. Thank you all.
Chairman Berman. The time of the gentleman has expired. The
gentleman from South Carolina, Mr. Wilson, is recognized for 5
Mr. Wilson. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And I would like to
commend our three witnesses today. This is one of the best
hearings I have been to in my 8 years here. It is remarkable
because, Mr. Thier, as you pointed out, people are not making
up facts. All three of you are being very candid. I have been
here and heard made up facts. So thank you. In the context, I
want to point out that I agree very much with President Barack
Obama. He gave a speech to the veterans of foreign wars in
Phoenix on August 17th, just virtually 2 months ago this year
and he said but we must never forget this is not a war of
choice. This is a war of necessity. Those who attacked America
on 9/11 are plotting to do so again.
If left unchecked, the Taliban insurgency will mean an even
larger safe-haven from which al-Qaeda would plot to kill more
Americans. So this is not only a war worth fighting, this is
fundamental to the defense of our people. President Barack
Obama further stated, going forward, we will constantly adapt
to our tactics to stay ahead of the enemy and give our troops
the tools and equipment they need to succeed. And at every step
of the way, we will assess our efforts to defeat al-Qaeda and
its extremist allies and to help the Afghan and Pakistani
people build the future they seek. And I just want it clear
that I just think the President was right on point just 2
months ago virtually today.
I would like to thank Dr. Kagan for being here. He and his
wife have been very brave to spend an extraordinary amount of
time in Afghanistan. Your vision has proven correct and I
appreciate it. I would like to ask you after months of
insisting that the Taliban and al-Qaeda were interlocked, the
administration now appears to be reversing its stand on the
subject. Is it a false distinction to make up that we can
separate the Taliban from al-Qaeda or that we can bribe Taliban
militants as the President is said to be considering?
Mr. Kagan. The Taliban and al-Qaeda are multiple groups.
There is not one Taliban. There are multiple Taliban groups for
that matter. But I think, as Steve pointed out, they are linked
genetically as well as ideologically. And you can go back and
read the discussion. There is an al-Qaeda and Afghanistan
organization by the way. It is very small. It is not a major
threat. But it did lay out very articulately several months ago
exactly how it fits itself into the Taliban command structure
within Afghanistan to fight against Americans.
No, I don't think that these groups can be separated from
one another or bribed or anything in the context of an American
withdrawal that they will paint as the most significant
humiliation of American arms in half a century or longer and
that will powerfully fuel their arguments for the inevitability
of their success.
Mr. Wilson. And it is just so frustrating. We have been to
hearings before where you would think that Taliban and al-Qaeda
had membership cards with photo IDs and membership lists and
they have regular conventions and meetings. Thank goodness you
are here today. Thank you. Mr. Thier, I want to let you know
The Institute of Peace--I have had the privilege of working
with your organization in Iraq and in Afghanistan and it makes
a difference. For you and Mr. Coll, we have taken steps to
expand the Afghan national security forces to be self-reliant
and laid the fight against the insurgency. How do we measure
the unit progress and activity? In doing so, how do we
determine which units are successful or not?
Mr. Thier. Thank you. And I should say I thank the U.S.
Congress for its support of the U.S. Institute of Peace. I
think that our ability to assess the progress of the Afghan
national Army and the Afghan national police should be based on
performance. In other words, outcomes as opposed to outputs. We
don't want to count the number of people that we have put
through training programs. We want to see how effectively they
are able to operate. In that sense, I think we have a good-
news/bad-news story. On the army side, we have seen tremendous
willingness of the Afghan military to fight cohesively. They
are not independent yet, but some of the units are working
On the police side unfortunately we have the opposite. From
the beginning of the creation of the Afghan national police,
they were a problem force. And as they have grown, that hasn't
improved. The U.S. Institute of Peace has a report out recently
about the problem of police reform and I could go on longer if
given the opportunity.
Mr. Wilson. And I would like to point out that it is so
inspiring to me when I meet with the military officers, these
are former mujahideen successful against the Soviets, General
Wardak. And so I have great faith in their future. Thank you.
Chairman Berman. The time of the gentleman has expired. The
gentlelady from California, Ms. Woolsey.
Ms. Woolsey. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you to our
wonderful panel. You know a lot more than many of us do, but we
also have some places we want to probe. Earlier this year,
along with Congresswoman Lee and many other members, I sent a
letter to the White House asking for clarification on policies
for Afghanistan. And today, sadly, many of the issues have yet
to be resolved. We still lack a clear mission or timeline, the
projected financial and human costs are unknown and the role of
the U.N. and other international partners is undefined. The
cost of indecision obviously is very high and we don't want to
rush to judgment. But after 8 years, I don't think we are
hardly rushing to anything in Afghanistan regarding policy. I
would hope that somewhere in this policy discussion--and this
is what I would like you--because I want to change this a
little bit so we are not all asking exactly the same question.
I would like to discuss a little bit changing the
investment we make and the efforts we are taking in Afghanistan
from 80 percent military, 20 percent humanitarian and
economical help to maybe reversing that. Your opinions, what
would that do? I consider that smarter security. And where
would we get if we still kept a presence but put most of our
effort into humanitarian and economic help? And the help I
believe the Afghan people really want. Start down here with Dr.
Mr. Kagan. What I would like to do is actually reframe the
way you have established the dichotomy a little bit. Not so
much in terms of funding, but in terms of effort. There is not
a war in Afghanistan because Afghanistan is poor. This is not
about poverty. That is not why they are fighting. And we are
not going to develop our way out of this war. In fact,
unfortunately, that was actually a large part of the strategy
after 2001. It was relatively peaceful and the development
agencies came in and they did what development agencies do. And
that did not prevent the resurgence of the Taliban despite
their efforts and there was a lot of international money that
went into that. It wasn't just American money. What Afghans are
looking for is not so much development projects. What they are
looking for is governance. What they are looking for is
security first of all, rule of law, a justice system that is
functional. Those are the things that they demand from their
government that they are not getting. And we have not paid
remotely enough attention to addressing those concerns over the
last 8 years at any time. And I would submit that if we don't
start paying a lot of attention--and I think General McChrystal
understands this and the embassy understands this. But if we
don't really start paying attention to that, then the military
strategy by itself will not succeed.
Ms. Woolsey. Let us just go up the line and--okay?
Mr. Coll. I would agree with Fred's comments and just would
emphasize that since 9/11, since 2001, since the fall of the
Taliban, we have had some success with our military efforts and
some success with our development efforts. But over time those
investments have deteriorated because we failed to grapple with
sustainable Afghan politics. And that is for Afghans, of
course, to lead, but for us to support and recognize as
central. Development cannot proceed in a roads and dams model
in a country like Afghanistan. And now, especially after this
election, there has got to be an extraordinary concentration on
national reconciliation and reintegration projects that are
Afghan defined but that are primarily political.
If we go back to building roads and dams and define our
economic and humanitarian support that way, we are just going
to repeat the cycle that led us to this intersection.
Ms. Woolsey. Well, Mr. Thier, maybe you can add a dimension
to this. Can we force good governments through the military? I
mean, isn't there a smarter way to do this?
Mr. Thier. I think the answer is no. I agree very much with
the premise of your question. And I think even
counterinsurgency says that 80 percent of the challenge should
be a civilian and not a military challenge. I think one of the
fundamental problems that the United States faces is that we
have so many resources on the military side and yet our
civilian capacity to undertake these challenges at USAID and in
the State Department are far under resourced. And so I do think
we need to rebalance our efforts if we are going to be more
effective on the civilian side. And I think that is absolutely
right because ultimately these questions of security don't
revolve around guns but revolve around broader issues.
Chairman Berman. The time of the gentlelady has expired.
The gentleman from Nebraska, Mr. Fortenberry is recognized for
Mr. Fortenberry. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for holding this
hearing. I believe this hearing is actually a forerunner to a
much larger and aggressive debate that actually should be
happening right now in Congress. And I thank you, gentlemen,
for appearing today. Mr. Coll, you stated that the stability of
Pakistan is key to the stability of Afghanistan. Dr. Kagan, you
reversed it or emphasized the stability of Afghanistan actually
key to the stability of Pakistan. So clearly, we have got two
essential variables in this geopolitical equation. What is the
likelihood that those will converge in a timely manner for us
to reach these objectives with minimum loss of life and with
ultimately a sustainable Afghani society and a sustainable
The second question I am going to have after this one is
what is the international resolve here. This is not a U.S.
problem alone. You hear a few weeks ago several--I think it was
6--Italian soldiers were tragically killed and I think it was
the prime minister who said it is time to come home. You have
heard some rumors perhaps that the Canadians are under
reconsideration here. The British are sending in 500 additional
troops. That is nice. But we are looking at the potential of
40,000 more. I want your perspective on what is the
international community's resolve and why there continues to be
this disproportionate burden sharing by the United States in
light of what is at stake for stabilization not only in that
arena, but really for the future of the stabilization of not
just Afghanistan, but the entire international community?
Mr. Kagan. I would like to just start by highlighting an
interesting fact about the moment in history that we stand at
right now from the standpoint of a war that is a two-front war
that occurs on both sides of the Duran Line. Pakistan has made
remarkable progress in its fight against its own internal
Taliban groups which are connected in complicated ways even
though they are separate from the Taliban groups that we are
fighting. And it is really--over the last 8 months, when you
look at the operations that the Pakistan military has conducted
in Bajaur and Mamund areas in the northern FATA in Swat,
clearing the TTP out of there and the TNSM out of there. Now
they appear to be mobilizing for a major clearing operation in
The enemy in that area has only one place to go and that is
Afghanistan. And they will find American forces and Afghan
forces on the other side of the border able to address any
possibility they might have of establishing a real safe-haven
where the Pakistanis can get at them. Your question is very
timely. But the short answer is, if you were going to pick any
time over the last 8 years to say, well, this is hopeless, the
Pakistanis won't do their part and we need to just leave, this
would be exactly the wrong moment to do it. Because the last
thing we want to do right now is undercut the resolve of the
Pakistani Government to go after an organization that
fundamentally threatens its stability and is linked with
organizations that aim at us and threaten the stability of the
entire region right as they are gearing up to go after it and
when they need our help to do it.
Mr. Fortenberry. Thank you. Mr. Coll, did you want to
respond to that? Plus the other question is the international
community's resolve in this regard.
Mr. Coll. I agree with what Fred says and I would only add
there is a discourse underway among Pakistani elites in their
constitutional system about how to fashion their national
security doctrine and define their interests. They created the
Frankenstein monster of the Taliban in substantial respects.
They are now having a debate about whether they should unplug
that machine and try to normalize relations with India,
modernize, join the international community. If they are
confronted with a long-running Taliban insurgency in both their
own country and across the board in Pakistan, they are unlikely
to make the choices that I think are in their own best
interest, but also in ours. So I do think it is a critical time
and I do believe that a stable Afghanistan is a necessary
component of that evolution.
International resolve has been sort of zigzagging since
2001. The pattern is familiar. Anglo American countries like
Canada have taken more casualties per capita than at any other
conflict in their history since Korea, I think, is correct in
Canada's case. The Afghan war looms very large in these
countries. And I think in the case of the Canadians and the
Australians and the Brits, we should be as impressed by their
resolve as we are concerned about sort of the politics of easy
defeatism in some other capitals.
I do think NATO as an institution will recognize--
recognizes that its future and its interests lie in persistence
if Americans are leading and that if we do lead, we will find
an adequate array of partners to get through this next 3 or 4
Mr. Fortenberry. Thank you.
Chairman Berman. The time of the gentleman has expired. The
gentlelady from Texas, Ms. Sheila Jackson Lee.
Ms. Jackson Lee. Chairman, to the ranking member, this is a
crucial hearing. And I thank the individuals, witnesses who
have come. As a member, I would almost want a couple of hours
on this can I guess we will have to continue to self-educate
ourselves. I have engaged with Afghanistan. I co-chair the
Afghan caucus with one of my colleagues and started with Afghan
probably shortly after the 2002 war, if you will, beginning in
2002. And seeing some progress where women were elected as
parliamentarians, where schools were open, and, of course, we
don't see that as we speak. But there is also something called
collateral damage, what, 40,000 plus troops, just because of
the nature of war will do. There is the question of building a
generation of haters of the United States because of that
And there is a question of whether or not there is even a
real exit strategy that we can contend with. We know that the
White House is engaging in that. I thank you, Dr. Kagan, for
acknowledging the treasure if you will of the Pakistani people
and what the Pakistani military is attempting to do. I hope
that as they are debating the enhanced Pakistan legislation
that they will recognize that we are in partnership with them
even though we respect the sovereignty of the Parliament and I
hope that the military doesn't feel that it has to continue to
undermine the efforts to help the Pakistan people. I hope they
understand that we respect their sacrifice. But my question
with the backdrop of Vietnam and the idea that Afghans are
quite different from the Iraqis, let me ask you, Mr. Thier,
because I am seeing the word--I have not Googled you, but I am
seeing ``peace'' and I am not understanding your perspective on
this. How do you define Taliban?
Mr. Thier. Well, I think that is an interesting question,
of course, because the Taliban is a myriad of groups. We have
the Taliban that we saw ruling Afghanistan in the 1990s and
then we have what has emerged as what many people refer to as
the neo Taliban, which is a network of insurgent groups,
including Mullah Omar's Taliban as well as Hekmachar and----
Ms. Jackson Lee. And they are like spinoffs, correct?
Mr. Thier. Yes, they are spinoff groups. And of course----
Ms. Jackson Lee. And they are people who have fathers and
brothers and husbands in villages that may be called Taliban?
Mr. Thier. Indeed.
Ms. Jackson Lee. Because of their particular beliefs.
Mr. Thier. And one thing that you hear----
Ms. Jackson Lee. And they may be leaders in their villages
and they may not be intending to do harm to the United States?
Mr. Thier. Well, I think it would be wrong to say that
anybody who is now associated with the Taliban is directly an
enemy of the United States, but that is not to say that the
Taliban leadership and the overall ideology of the Taliban
isn't fundamentally opposed to our security interests.
Ms. Jackson Lee. That is fair enough. That is leadership.
We are talking about adding 40,000 more troops per General
McChrystal. And the sense I get of the three witnesses here,
that there is not a divide amongst you. My concern is that very
point, that Taliban in some instance, the leadership is
untoward and wants to do harm. But they are also maybe
characterized and I am not a Ph.D. Expert on this, but maybe
characterized as neighbors. What will be the impact of an
insurgent action that has enormous collateral damage,
juxtaposed against Afghans who fought for 20 years and would
have fought longer, Russia, and I think Russia was the last
group standing. And I am going to end my question here so I can
get an answer from Mr. Coll and Dr. Kagan. There is no exit
strategy and we have collateral damage and all we are creating
is another unending war. Dr. Kagan?
Mr. Kagan. Congresswoman, the strategy is a strategy that
has an exit strategy. It may or may not succeed. But it is not
a strategy for an endless war. It is a strategy that----
Ms. Jackson Lee. May not succeed. Thank you. Mr. Coll. I am
sorry--is that correct? Am I saying it correctly? You only have
Mr. Coll. Close enough. Yes, I think there is an exit
strategy which is to transfer authority to the Afghan national
security forces and withdraw from combat as quickly as
Ms. Jackson Lee. And I thank you. And I would appreciate if
that was our first approach, that we ramped up the diplomacy,
that we did counterterrorism and not insurgency, that we
trained the Afghans, that we got a better government because I
can tell you what General McChrystal, with all due respect, is
proposing is an unending war that will never end or we leave in
defeat. I yield back.
Chairman Berman. The time of the gentlelady has expired. We
are going to have votes very soon. But I think we will have
time for our--Mr. Burton, you are recognized for 5 minutes.
Mr. Burton. My colleague, Mr. Inglis, would like some time.
So I am going to try to cut this short. First of all, I would
like to ask you, Mr. Chairman, about you working with
Representative Skelton, chairman of the Armed Services
Committee, to try to get General McChrystal before the
committee. I think it would be very important to hear----
Chairman Berman. Will the gentleman yield?
Mr. Burton. Yes, sir.
Chairman Berman. I spoke to that I think when you were not
in the room. My thinking now is that they definitely should be
here, but I think it should come after the administration has
made its decision, and that becomes the basis for questioning
and challenging and all of that. So I think that is the logical
time frame. And once that decision is made, that is our first
order of business is to make that happen.
Mr. Burton. I understand the Chief Executive makes that
decision, but I would differ with you on having him here
before. But that is your decision. You are the chairman. I
would also like to ask you how you are coming along with your
very fine bill that deals with sanctions on Iran. I think you
said we are going to have it done in August, September----
Chairman Berman. No, no, no. You know what I said. I said
Mr. Burton. Okay. What is today's date, Mr. Chairman?
Chairman Berman. It is 2 weeks before the date of the
Mr. Burton. Thank you, sir. I am looking forward to that.
Let me just say to the witnesses, I really appreciate your
being here and I think you acquitted yourselves very well
today. I just want to ask a question. Where are the Taliban and
al-Qaeda getting their money? Are they getting it from the
Persian Gulf states? Are they getting it from people in
Pakistan, Saudi Arabia? Where are they getting their money?
Mr. Kagan. Yes, they are getting their money from many
sources and this is a very important point that goes to the
question that was raised earlier about the opium trade. They do
receive--I believe that they receive trade from Arabs outside
of the region. They do receive assistance from the Pakistani
elements of the Pakistani military I believe. But a key source
of revenue for them is local taxation. And that is, in fact,
the way that they make their profit off of the opium trade,
which is important.
Mr. Burton. They get a rake-off from that?
Mr. Kagan. Is not a rake-off. It is taxes. And they will go
down and tax the locals. And they make a lot of money off of
Mr. Burton. You say there are elements in the Pakistani
Government that are giving money to the Taliban. The government
is supposed to be fighting the Taliban in the military. Can you
give us more of an insightful view into that real quickly?
Mr. Kagan. Sure. The Pakistani Government is fighting two
Taliban groups that have been threatening it, the TTP and the
TNSM in the FATA and the northwest frontier province. They
support, I believe, that the Pakistani elements--the Pakistani
military supports the Quetta Shura Taliban under Mullah Omar
and Haqqani network operating in eastern Afghanistan. So there
are different Taliban groups and the Pakistani military has
taken different approaches to dealing with them.
Mr. Burton. Well, you would say that the Pakistani
Government and the military are supportive of our efforts over
there in total?
Mr. Kagan. On balance, the policy of the Pakistani
Government and the military and their strategy is supportive of
our efforts. I think there are elements within the military
that are not supportive of the efforts.
Mr. Burton. With Iran on the west and Pakistan on the east,
I sure hope that you fellows' assessment is correct in that we
are making the right move and I hope the President does make
his decision very quickly. And with that, Mr. Chairman, I would
like to submit my entire statement for the record and yield my
time to Mr. Inglis, and plus he can have his time as well.
Chairman Berman. Mr. Inglis for 6 minutes and 51 seconds.
Mr. Inglis. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. There is a cloud of
illegitimacy surrounding the Karzai government because of the
elections. Is it possible to rehabilitate them, his leadership?
And if so, how do you do that?
Mr. Coll. I will take a quick pass at it. I am sure Alex
has something to say. You can't sugarcoat this fraud. The
allegations are very serious and they betray substantial
investments of American blood and treasure in places like
Helmand where the Marines have been over the last 15 months. It
seems that great numbers of votes there were manufactured by
the President, at least according to the U.N.'s data.
Yes, it is possible to rehabilitate this process because
there is a broad appetite among Afghans for their own reform
process and it is possible to I think use American influence to
bring all of the parties to that reform process. President
Karzai, the opposition leader Abdullah, other unsuccessful
candidates for President and the agenda for that reform process
has to be ambitious. It has to include constitutional questions
like the role of Parliament against the presidency, whether or
not governors should be elected, whether or not political
parties should be allowed to compete and should also include
How do you prevent this from happening again? How do you
strengthen the Afghan institutions that attempted to hold this
election but were apparently betrayed by those who were
criminally determined to steal it?
Mr. Thier. I think we really have a two-part strategy of
improving the accountability and performance of the Afghan
Government. The first is a ``work with Karzai'' strategy and
the second is a ``work around Karzai'' strategy. I think the
work with Karzai strategy requires us to do a lot more to hold
his government accountable. For instance, as a result of this
election, obviously there are hundreds, if not thousands of
people working for the Afghan Government who perpetrated this
fraud. There has to be a demonstration of accountability in
this process if Karzai wants to claim that these people did
that of their own initiative, which is what he said. Then he
has to be the one to stand up to make sure that there is
I would extend that not only to the election but beyond
that, allegations about his brother's involvement in the drug
trade, allegations about other high level government officials.
There needs to be a very serious approach to corruption. The
work around Karzai strategy is both at the national level and
subnational level. There are some very good ministers in
Afghanistan. I know that you have been over there. You may have
met with some of them. There are some people who are doing very
good work, who have done a lot to deliver assistance,
particularly the ministry of agriculture, rural rehabilitation
These are people who are committed. And we can continue to
work with them intensively and in fact put more of our
resources into their ministries to allow them to succeed. The
final step of that is to work much more intensively at the
subnational level. You have governors out there. You have
elected provincial councils who will do much better if they
have the capacity and resources to channel resources to their
population, to cut out the bottleneck that exists in Kabul and
to deliver resources at the local level. Just like in our own
system, it is people at the local level who understand best
what they need and how to get it done. And we need to do a lot
more of that in Afghanistan if we want to be more effective at
delivering assistance and cutting out some of the problems that
have existed at the central government level.
Mr. Inglis. Dr. Kagan, does it require a do-over of the
Mr. Kagan. It doesn't require a do-over of the election
necessarily. First we have to see what the actual result is and
we are still waiting on the Afghans to tell us. And I think it
is important that we respect the Afghan process. But we also--
frankly, the illegitimacy, or potential illegitimacy, of the
election gives us also an opportunity, if we choose, to use it
and if we develop an articulated clear political strategy to do
so. Karzai knows that he has been weakened by all of this. He
knows that he has to be very concerned about the question of
American support for him. That it is not taken for granted and
he knows, I believe, that he is unable to govern that country.
It is not even clear to me that he can stay alive in that
country without American support. In this context, that
provides us with an opportunity to insist upon a series of
fundamental reforms in the way the Afghan Government functions
as my colleagues and others have described as part of a package
in return for the aid and assistance that we give to the
Government of Afghanistan.
And I think we need to do that. And I think we really need
to press the administration to explain what its political
strategy is and how it intends to mitigate the negative
consequences of this which I think it can and to gain the
benefits that are potentially there. And if I could just add
one point that is often lost in this discussion. The United
States troops are not going into Afghanistan to kill people and
blow things up. First of all, we don't need troops to do that.
If you want to do that, we can do that from the air. The troops
are going in to interact with local population to reassure
Afghans of our commitment, to gain intelligence from them, but
also to help them work through precisely these governance
issues. And this is a role that American troops played in Iraq,
it is a role that they have played in Afghanistan where they
have been resourced adequately and given the mission and it is
a role that they will play essentially in support of a larger
political strategy that addresses this gap between the local
people and their leaders and this government.
Mr. Inglis. Does geography conspire against Afghanistan in
the creation of a central government such that--it depends on
where you are as to whether you need one. I wonder if my
observation is correct. In other words, if you are in some
remote valley, really you don't much need a central government
if you have tribal leaders that can help adjudicate conflicts,
why do you need a Federal courthouse? And, in fact, it is the
legitimacy of that Federal courthouse may be questioned,
especially if it comes from the metropolitan areas. So you end
up with--or I like the idea of Federal courthouses in the
United States. We have a wonderful country. I wonder if that is
the case there.
Chairman Berman. Our problem is we have less than 5 minutes
to make this vote. My problem is, I don't want to miss votes. I
want to ask another round of questions and I don't want to keep
you here for another 30 minutes. So I am going to give up my
round of questions. Would you give up the answer to your last
Mr. Inglis. I would be happy to give up the answer.
Chairman Berman. And thank you guys very much for coming.
It has been very interesting. I think I do want to say for the
record we made an earnest effort to get some respected figures
who have a different view than the three of you,
notwithstanding your different backgrounds and all that have on
some of this and none of them could make it at this time. But
we did make that effort and I just wanted the record to reflect
that. And I think your testimony was great and I appreciate it
very much. The hearing is adjourned.
[Whereupon, at 1:03 p.m., the committee was adjourned.]
A P P E N D I X
Material Submitted for the Hearing RecordNotice deg.
Berman statement deg.
Green statement deg.
Burton statement deg.
Connolly statement deg.